Paid Channels Like Zee, Colors Offered For Free Via DD Free Dish! DTH Firms Angry


Normally, these channels would cost between Rs 1- Rs 5 on a paid DTH service.

DPOs (Distribution Platform Operators) companies are upset that paid channels are being offered for free on DD Free Dish.

DD FreeDish is a free-to-air (FTA) DTH service which has no monthly fee and can be availed with a one-time payment for dish and Set-Top boxes.

DPO is a combined term for both DTH and cable operators.

Pay Channels On Offer For Free

The offered paid channels include:

  • Star Utsav 
  • Colors Rishtey
  • Zee Anmol
  • Sony Pal
  • Big Magic Ganga
  • Filamchi Bhojpuri 
  • Zee Punjabi etc

Normally, these channels would cost between Rs 1- Rs 5 on a paid DTH service.

Major Broadcasters At Fault

Direct-to-home (DTH) giants Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky and more are particularly targeting broadcasters who own the channels mentioned above and have offered it for free on DD FreeDish.

These broadcasters include ZEE, Sony Pictures Networks India, Star & Disney India and Viacom18.

Missing Out On Huge Subscriber Base

The Prasar Bharati-owned DD FreeDish has 40 million subscribers.

Private distribution platforms are missing out on this sizable audience which is over 25% of total TV households in the country and is now being captured using unfair means.

It is also keeping the high rural viewership out of reach for private broadcasters.

All the other DTH operators put together have 69.57 million subscribers.

Customer Complaints

They also say that they have been receiving complaints from customers who can now avail the channels they pay for for free.

Harit Nagpal, managing director and chief executive officer, Tata Sky, said that it has been receiving such complaints from a year back.

The company also wrote to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) but received no response.

Nagpal said that if they still don’t get a response, they will have to go to court.

Legal Angle

TRAI has a new tariff order (NTO) which requires broadcasters to declare channels either as free-to-air or pay channels.

In case of pay channels, they must prescribe MRPs which DTH operators have to pay to the broadcasters to get the right to distribute these channels.

The MRP has to be uniform across all distribution platforms, so differential pricing for any one DPO will not be allowed.

TRAI Indirectly Addresses Problem

TRAI is said to be aware of the current issue.

Its website has FAQs on broadcasting and cable TV services and one of those is about why pay channels are shown as free on DD Free Dish.

It answers that the nature of a channel has to be the same on all addressable platforms and is ” in correspondence with the concerned persons”.

A Twist?

DD Free Dish might not be covered by NTO.

This is because it has unencrypted transmissions and is therefore not an ‘addressable system’ to which NTO applies.

Loophole

As a distributor, it can price pay channels at any price (even a zero price), so long as it does not exceed the channel’s MRP prescribed by broadcasters.

However, there are caps in place which prohibit broadcasters from providing discounts to distributors beyond it.

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