The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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STAR in desi ally hunt

New Delhi, July 30: STAR has begun scouting for an Indian to partner it in its direct-to-home (DTH) television business with information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad clearing Zee’s project.

STAR television sources said they have been urging the government to issue a letter of intent (LoI) — like it has for Zee — “because that will give our potential Indian partners greater confidence”.

STAR has promoted Space TV for its DTH business. Space’s application is pending with the government. Ministry sources said STAR has to make a deposit of Rs 10 crore upfront to process its LoI.

STAR sources, however, said: “We are not in a hurry. We will press ahead with our application after we have restructured the company. We have been told that we have got the clearance from the department of space. Right now, we are negotiating with people who can partner us in the DTH venture.”

DTH guidelines formulated by the government lay down that the maximum foreign equity permitted is 49 per cent (inclusive of 20 per cent foreign direct investment). STAR now needs to have an Indian or group of Indians to pick up 51 per cent in Space TV.

Ministry sources said the inter-ministerial group that is considering STAR News’ application for uplinking can, at a later stage, consider whether the government should allow Indian equity in electronic media companies with foreign stakes to be widely held. It is possible that with the agenda of discussions for the group covering a wide array of media issues, a new rule of Indian holdings in media companies with foreign partners could well be in the offing.

Ministry sources said they had also received STAR News’ response to the government’s queries on editorial control. Declining to give details, the sources said STAR retains the right to manage editorial content put out by its shell company, MCCS (Media Content and Communication Services).

In another development, Zee’s vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said at a news conference today that its DTH business will roll out alongside its conditional access system (CAS) from September 1. Demonstrating Siticable’s set-top boxes — to make the point that the CAS regime would be a reality from September 1— Goel said Siticable, which has its business in Madras, Calcutta and Delhi among the four metros, currently has 120,000 set-top boxes in store.

Goel said Siticable’s Headend in the Sky platform would allow value-added features in the set-top boxes such as SMS (as in mobile text messaging) and teletext.

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