New channels on hold in India

Applicants' launch plans in limbo as capacity reaches limit

NEW DELHI -- India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry said Wednesday that it has put applications for uplinking and downlinking channels on temporary hold due to traffic overload on available bandwidth, with 500-plus channels already operating here and another 150-plus awaiting permission to launch.

The move could put plans on hold for applicants that are rumored to include the likes of Hong Kong-based Tiger Gate Entertainment, the new venture backed by Hollywood banner and TV content producer Lionsgate, which plans to launch new pay-TV channels here as part of its Asia launch.

The moratorium will be in effect pending a recommendation from regulator the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which is preparing a study on how many channels can be broadcast. A timeline as to when TRAI's study would be finalized was not given.

“It has been observed that although improved technologies have resulted in better utilization of the available spectrum and transponder capacities, the spectrum and transponder capacities for satellite TV channels are not unlimited. A need is felt to revisit the present policy for uplinking and downlinking with respect to the approach towards grant of permission including the eligibility criteria and the terms and conditions of the permission," the I&B statement said. 

“As far as [Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia]'s knowledge in Asia goes, a regulation capping the total number of TV channels doesn't exist or not at least on the lines being suggested by the Indian government... Though the full implications of the ministry's directive will have to be studied in detail, prima facie it could lead to some form of censorship if persisted with," CASBAA executive director for India Anjan Mitra told THR.

As for a capacity crunch, “most foreign satellite companies like Intelsat, AsiaSat, Measat, Eutelsat, SES New Skies, and so on, are increasingly upping capacity for Indian customers everyday in addition to the laudable work being done by the Indian Space Research Organization in having launched communications satellites and preparing new launches in the near future to take care of India's growing needs up to an extent," Mitra explained.