Scatmag.com

July 2018

ISRO ALLOWS FOREIGN SATELLITE USE



BACKGROUND

Currently, about 80% of all Indian TV channels downlink from foreign satellites. Out of 725 active channels, only about 150 are on Indian satellites.

A new report on 8 April revealed that ISRO had taken a hard stand and refused to approve any new downlink license or renewal of an existing license, if the satellite channels were not hosted on an ISRO satellite. The move resulted in more than 30 applications stalled.

Broadcasters complained bitterly, pointing out that the move was inappropriate, against free trade and the PM's vision of making it easier to do business in India.


ISRO RELENTS

India's Department of Space, the parent of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has back-tracked its rigid stand, forcing Indian satellite channels from receiving license renewals only if they shift to an ISRO satellite.

ISRO has now agreed to provide its 'No Objection Certificate' for Downlink extensions to TV channels & teleports using foreign satellites, if the Indian company already has signed a long-term contract.

DoS / ISRO have conveyed to the I&B ministry that license renewals may be processed - for the time being - without insistence on migration to an Indian satellite or asking the time frame for doing it.

At least 10 applications are believed to be pending downlink renewals or channel Name Changes, that have existing long term contracts with non ISRO satellites.



ISRO FORCED BY PMO?

At least 1 press report claims that ISRO's retraction is due to an advisory to it from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

The PMO stepped in after bitter complaints from the industry.

Industry observers also point out that ISRO is not currently adequately equipped to downlink all Indian channels.

ISRO's 40 transponder GSAT-11 satellite has been recalled for further testing.

It seems that ISRO has been asked to strengthen its transponder capacity, improve transponder and satellite reliability and provide standby capacities required in case of failure of in-use transponders.

This is resulted in the 3-year extension currently granted by ISRO to existing broadcasters who already have valid contracts.






NOTICE BEFORE RENEWALS

However, ISRO/DoS have insisted that any company that has existing permission from MIB to start a TV channel or communications service (like teleports) and is currently on a foreign satellite, must give ISRO at least 3-month prior notice so that they can be hosted on an Indian satellite in future.


NEW APPLICANTS

ISRO has reportedly stalled over 35 applications for downlinking of new channels, that submitted plans to be hosted on non ISRO satellites.

ISRO has said it should be given at least 3 months prior notice to accommodate new channels on Indian satellites.


EXCEPTION!

In May 2018, the MIB cleared applications of 3 new TV channels, from Aastha. Aastha channels are owned by a company controlled by Balkrishna, a close associate of Patanjali's Baba Ramdev.

The new channels will reportedly be hosted on Non- ISRO satellites.

Were these channels the first beneficiaries of ISRO's concessions? n