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January 2019


TRAI has reportedly written to broadcasters questioning them why some channels are priced and delivered as Pay channels to Cable TV & DTH platforms, but remain available FTA on FreeDish.

"As per the regulations, a broadcaster has to declare its nature of channels as either pay channel or Free to Air for addressable system. Therefore, nature of channel should be same on all addressable platforms. TRAI is seized of the matter and is in correspondence with those concerned in this regard," the TRAI said.


One argument is that FreeDish is not an addressable platform. DD Free Dish transmits its signals without any encryption and any person can point a dish at the satellite and watch the channels without any authorization or permission. Many attribute this to be the key reason for FreeDish's widespread success, particularly amongst non-urban viewers.

For more than a year, FreeDish has said it intends to encrypt its (future) MPEG- 4 channels. However, there has been little action on this proposal. The new addressable MPEG-4 satellite receivers would also be much more expensive, and available only from a restricted list of manufacturers.


If TRAI prevails, broadcasters will have to make a difficult choice from:

  • Turn their channels FTA on Cable & DTH. It will exclude the FTA channels from all Pay bouquets.
  • Withdraw from FreeDish and loose almost 30 million households.
  • Re-package the channels with FTA & Pay versions, under different names. However, new channel licenses are hard to get, with wait lists of over a year.
  • Go to court and argue that FreeDish is not an addressable platform.

The last option is probably most likely, given the litigatious stand broadcasters have taken in the past. n