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Star seeks to uplink non-news channels
New Delhi: The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in the finance ministry is expected to take up the proposal of Star India Pvt Ltd, seeking to broadcast non-news and non-current affairs television channels, on Friday (October 30).

Rupert Murdoch's Star TV is believed to be keen to uplink most of its channels, including non-news and non-current affairs, from India, and therefore has filed the application with FIPB.

An industry source said the Star group is cutting down its operations and staff in the Hong Kong hub and is planning to bring most of its transmission to India.

Currently, most of Star group's entertainment channels are uplinked from Hong Kong. While Star News (a joint venture between Star and Ananda Bazar Patrika) uplinks from India, the group's non-news channels are only downlinked in India.

If the government clears the Star proposal, all its Indian channels (news and non-news) would be uplinked from India. A government nod for uplink permission to Star will require approvals from various key ministries including ministry of home affairs. Uplinking refers to the transmission of a signal via a satellite from one terrestrial location to another
location and then ultimately the signal can be distributed to the end users. Broadcasters use uplinking to beam their programmes to their viewers.

When Star News was to start its operation in India earlier during this decade, the group had faced stiff resistance from the government over 'ownership' issues. In news channels, the FDI cap is at 26%. Star brought in the ABP group as the majority partner for its news venture.

At present, Star India is in the business of sourcing and exporting commercial/TV programme software, cinematograph films, commercial and ad films, documentaries and other related content from India. It also undertakes downlink and distribution of foreign TV channels. It downlinks and distributes Star Plusand Star Utsav channels.

According to a source in the finance ministry, the application has said that Star India is evaluating options to expand its business operations, improve profitability and strengthen its financial position.

"To attain this objective, it proposes to engage in the business of creating, owning and broadcasting non news and non-current affairs TV channels from India," according to the proposal.

Star has further said in its application that it is particularly keen to explore creating and owning channels.

"Towards this end, Star India proposes to undertake channel creation and broadcasting activities -- uplink and downlink of non-news and non-current affairs TV channels from India." It does not want to invest any further at this point, according to its proposal.

A few months ago, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had divided its Asian broadcast business into threeentities -- Star India, Star Greater China and Fox International Channels. News Corp expects to complete the restructure exercise by the end of this year.

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