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Radio on DTH splits broadcasters
New Delhi: Should radio be a part of the direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting bouquet? The question has the country's media industry sharply divided.

Though some DTH platforms offer radio (mainly state-owned All India Radio and satellite radio WorldSpace), the government is yet to take a decision on whether to allow such a service.

One of the issues raised by some media players is that FM radio licences are city or town specific, and that offering FM stations on DTH could be a violation of government norms.

Replying to a consultation paper floated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on the matter, WorldSpace has said that carriage of radio channels as part of DTH TV service is well-accepted in most parts of the world, including the US, Europe and the Middle East. According to WorldSpace, radio channels that are approved by the competent authorities to offer national level services may be permitted to provide content to DTH operators in India.

FM radio player Entertainment Network India Ltd (ENIL) wants radio on the DTH platforms for greater reach. Unlike TV signals, radio requires lower bandwidth. "So, there won't be much additional burden on carrier capacity and on transponder bandwidth," ENIL has said.

On the other hand, Radio Mid-Day, another private FM radio player, has said that DTH service providers "cannot provide our Mumbai radio stations to their customers outside Mumbai." Also, any service by DTH "to provide our channels should be after taking our prior consent and after paying requisite fee," it said.

Dish TV, the first DTH operator, has said that DTH operators should not be allowed to provide radio channels as it may be a violation of the licensing conditions and uplinking/ downlinking guidelines. If DTH operators are allowed to offer radio stations, many government norms need to be reviewed and changed, Dish TV has said.

The Zee Turner Alliance, too, has opposed the idea. "DTH platform owners should not be permitted to carry radio channels as the licensing for the radio services is separate and distinct," it has said. It has argued permitting radio channels on DTH would result in infringing of territorial limits specified by the existing radio licences.

Other DTH service providers, including TataSky, Reliance Big TV, and Sun Direct, have however, stand in favour.

TataSky has stated that it is a common practice in many other countries to offer radio on DTH and even on cable. There is no conflict of business interest with an existing radio system as DTH is a paid service, it has said.

Reliance has compared this scenario with the telecom sector. "Like in the case of telecom service providers, which can provide mobile TV in addition to traditional voice and data, DTH operators can carry TV signals containing audio and video, and also audio signals of a radio channel," Reliance has argued.

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