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MIB asks DoS to block signals of unauthorised DTH operator ABS Free View

NEW DELHI: In a major crackdown on illegal TV channel distribution, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has asked the Department of Space (DoS) to block the signals of Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS), which is beaming in India without licence from the ministry.

The satellite operator is running a free DTH platform on the lines of Doordarshan’s Freedish. It has even added many popular Indian TV channels on its platform.

Keeping in view the national security angle, the MIB requested DoS to block the signals of ABS, which is beaming in India, Minister of State in the MIB Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said in the Lok Sabha.

Rajyavardhan Singh RathoreThe MIB is the licensing authority for DTH broadcasting services in India and it has received no application or reference from ABS for DTH operations, Rathore added.

Incidentally, the official ABS website does not mention anything about the ABS Free View service. The Bermuda-headquartered company operates a fleet of satellites besides offering end-to-end solutions including DTH, cable TV distribution, cellular backhaul, VSAT and internet backbone services.

To avail of ABS Free View service, all a consumer needs is a dish antenna, a Ku-band low-noise block down converter (LNB) and an MPEG2 set-top box (STB). There is no need to pay any subscription fee as the service is free.

No DTH company can provide its services in India without taking a licence from the MIB. New DTH operators will have to pay an entry fee of Rs 10 crore, submit a bank guarantee of Rs 40 crore and pay an annual licence fee equivalent to 10% of its gross revenue.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had brought to the MIB’s notice that a DTH service called ABS had started providing permitted FTA channels in India.

Since ABS was providing the service without any licence from the MIB, the ministry consulted the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the issue from the security angle and its implication from national security perspective.

The MHA mentioned that the transmission of DTH service by ABS was without any application to the MIB and not in line with the guidelines of the MIB.

In order to deter permitted broadcasters from violating the downlinking guidelines, the MIB had issued a notice on 23 December 2015 directing them not to provide signals to unauthorised DTH operators.

It had come to the MIB’s notice that certain DTH operators were beaming FTA channels into India without obtaining due licence/registration/authorisation. It had further stated that broadcasters having permitted TV channels were allowing their signals to be used by such unauthorised operator.

Non-adherence to the stipulation could attract stern action from the MIB in case corrective action is not taken immediately by broadcasters.

Clause 5.6 of the Article 5 of Downlinking guidelines issued by MIB stipulates that all the broadcasters shall provide satellite TV channel signal reception decoders only to MSOs/cable operators registered under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 or to a DTH operator registered under the DTH guidelines issued by the government of India or to an Internet Protocol Television Service Provider duly permitted under their existing Telecom Licence or authorised by Department of Telecommunications or to a Headend-in-the-sky (HITS) operator duly permitted under the policy guidelines for HITS operators issued by the ministry.

In order to deter the permitted broadcasters from violating the downlinking guidelines, the MIB issued a web notice on 23.12.2015.

No violation of Downlinking guidelines by permitted broadcasters on account of providing signals to unauthorised DTH operators has been brought to the notice of the MIB, Rathore said.