Come home to hundred channels without cable
Mamata patience on test
Board lobs ball from panel to panel
Gentle demolition of giants
Calcutta Weather

 
 
COME HOME TO HUNDRED CHANNELS WITHOUT CABLE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 2: 
After years of twists and turns, the Cabinet today cleared direct-to-home television services, allowing broadcasters to reach subscribers’ homes without the help of an intermediary.

Once DTH starts in a year after licences are issued, subscribers will get multiple channels — as many as 100 — from one service provider on what is known in industry jargon as ku-band.

Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj said circumstances had changed since 1997 when ku-band broadcasting was banned for security and cultural corruption fears.

At the time, broadcasters could not establish links with a satellite from Indian soil, which they now can. More important, DTH can carry services originating in information technology, such as Internet, e-mail, home-shopping, banking and tele-education. The demand of the infotech sector was a major driver behind the approval.

Safeguards have been built into the regulations. Uplinking with satellites can be done only through earth stations in India. There are also clauses protecting national security interests and preventing obscenity.

In the interest of consumers, the set-top box that a subscriber will have to buy to receive DTH signals will be non-proprietory. This means with one set-top box, the subscriber can receive more than one service. A set-top box can cost between Rs 5,000 and 10,000.

With any number of players being allowed, the government has guarded against creation of monopolies. Cross-holding has also been restricted. A broadcasting and/or cable network company cannot take more than 20 per cent of the equity in a DTH service.

Investments in a DTH service will be huge. The licence will cost Rs 10 crore, aside from a Rs 40-crore bank guarantee. The cost of an earth station will be between Rs 250 and 300 crore and of setting up the distribution system between Rs 400 and 500 crore.

Companies registered under the Indian Companies Act alone can apply for a licence. Under the 49 per cent foreign equity ceiling, only 20 per cent can be foreign direct investment.

Management control will have to be in Indian hands and the chief executive officer an Indian.

The Cable Network Association said cable operators do not feel threatened, even though DTH bypasses them, since it will be a much more expensive service plus the one-time high cost of buying a dish antennae and a set-top box, totalling about Rs 15,000.

Discovery CEO Kiran Karnik expressed satisfaction with the open architecture set-top boxes.

Prasar Bharati chief Rajeeva Ratna Shah said the board would meet on November 11 to formalise Doordarshan’s response.    


 
 
MAMATA PATIENCE ON TEST 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi & Calcutta, Nov. 2: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee continues to keep Mamata Banerjee on tenterhooks on her demand for a rollback in the petroleum price rise.

The Union Cabinet, which met here today for the second time after Vajpayee’s return from hospital, did not take a decision on the issue.

Mamata maintained a brave front and said she had raised the demand at the meeting. “Finance minister Yashwant Sinha said he wanted some more time to decide on it,” she added.

The railway minister made a 10-minute presentation during the two-and-a-half hour meeting in which she blamed “mismanagement” of the oil pool account between 1993 and 1998 for the present deficit.

She alleged that Rs 25,000 crore had gone down the drain, with state-run oil companies squandering money in league with politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen.

Her Cabinet colleague Pramod Mahajan said the rollback was not on the agenda. “Like last time, the Cabinet did not discuss the issue. If it was on the agenda, you would have known about it,” he said.

The Cabinet is expected to decide on the issue at its next meeting on November 7.

The prices of petroleum products were raised on September 29, provoking Mamata and her party colleague Ajit Panja to resign from the government in protest against the “anti-poor” move.

The duo withdrew their letters after the Prime Minister said on October 6 he would review the price rise after recovering from his knee surgery.

Though the Cabinet met last Monday after Vajpayee’s return, the issue was not discussed.    


 
 
BOARD LOBS BALL FROM PANEL TO PANEL 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Mumbai, Nov. 2: 
Even though Mohammed Azharuddin has himself admitted fixing three one-day Internationals, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has no plans to book the former captain immediately.

The BCCI doesn’t intend acting with alacrity against Ajay Jadeja and Ajay Sharma either.

“We can’t respond arbitrarily. Instead, the BCCI will await the professional opinion of its commissioner of investigations (K. Madhavan) on the CBI’s report, before deciding on the penalty to be meted out,” declared BCCI president A.C. Muthiah this evening.

The BCCI has put in place a choking code of conduct but, strictly speaking, it covers only those players picked for national duty from the just-begun 2000-2001 season. Under the code, match- fixers can be banned for life and fined.

Addressing a media conference, Muthiah added: “The commissioner’s opinion will be forwarded to the BCCI’s disciplinary committee and that committee, in turn, will place its recommendations before the working committee. Hopefully, this process will be complete in a fortnight.”

Muthiah wasn’t sure whether the commissioner would call any or all of the indicted players or whether the disciplinary committee (of which he is head) would alone do the summoning act.

Madhavan, a former joint director of the CBI, is already in touch with the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit chief Paul Condon.

The BCCI’s current stand may not please Union sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, an absolute hardliner, who has “called” Muthiah to New Delhi tomorrow. Today, though, the minister declined a detailed comment.

Dhindsa told The Telegraph from Delhi: “Let me first hear what the BCCI has to say. Uske baad, dekha jayega...” It’s possible the BCCI will be given another rap on its knuckles.

Actually, but for Muthiah’s intervention (at the media conference) secretary Jaywant Lele’s penchant for cavalier remarks would have landed the BCCI in more than just a spot of bother.

As a volley of questions was being fired, Lele said the players’ version, not the CBI’s alone, needed to be heard and read as well. “Jadeja has already denied...” A newsperson then asked whether the BCCI was doubting the CBI’s credentials.

Lele was about to say something when Muthiah, realising there could be more trouble ahead of his one-to-one with Dhindsa, stepped in: “Please don’t provoke Mr Lele... Provoke me, I’ll answer everything.”

Sources said the BCCI won’t take the CBI’s scathing criticism of its functioning lying down. As one gentleman put it: “The CBI’s brief was to look into match-fixing. It had no business making the observations it did.”

Muthiah himself released a strong statement: “At first glance, we fear the statements made against the BCCI are absolutely unwarranted and lack accuracy. The BCCI, after all these years, does not deserve such comments...”

However, till the BCCI acts, it can’t hope for any sympathy.    


 
 
GENTLE DEMOLITION OF GIANTS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 2: 
As they set about bringing down the demi-gods from their pedestals, the sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation knew they had to do it with grace.

At times “overawed” by legends like Azharuddin, the investigators always ensured that at least one senior official of DIG rank was present when they interrogated the cricket greats.

This investigation was different: the sleuths could not be coarse or rude. They simply had to confront the players with facts that made it clear they were not speaking the truth.

Deputy inspector-general Y.P. Singh of the special crime bureau, a CBI wing that probed the scandal, had penned the first draft of the report. He was advised that it had to be a “readable script”, not a legalese-loaded document that the bureau presents before courts.

The investigators realised they did not have much of a case. They just had to write a lucid, readable report which would be lapped up by the media. Singh’s draft was not okayed straightaway. CBI director R.K. Raghavan, who is trying to purge the agency of its archaic police style, went through the report as many as four times, striking out words that he thought smacked of Victorian prose.

It was only after the fourth reading that Raghavan seemed satisfied. The submission of the report had been delayed, but the CBI was aware it had done a good job, given the poor case they had in the first place. Raghavan is believed to have himself added the last paragraph in which the bureau deplores the present state of cricket.

The team of sleuths was led by joint director R.N. Savani. He was supported by Singh and a low-profile, young superintendent of police, Ganapathi. Two deputy superintendents assisted them.

It was a mammoth job involving offices across the country, but not once did the investigators lose their cool. They knew they were dealing with long-revered icons and could not afford to upset them. They simply had to play around with the bookies they had spoken to.

Armed with their confessions, the sleuths questioned the players, politely pointing out to them that what they were saying did not tally with the statements of bookies they could not deny knowing.

The investigators also had to help the players recover once they broke down. It was a slow, painstaking process, carried out diligently. After all, the CBI knew it was skating on thin ice. “We were as gentle as possible,” an official said.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.3°C (+l)
Minimum: 23.6°C (+4)

Rainfall:

20.4 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 66%

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 22°C    

 

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