The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New boss, DTH plunge for DD

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Doordarshan director-general Shahabuddin Yakoob Quraishi is being relieved of his responsibility a year before his term with the public broadcaster is due to expire. Vinod Rai, who is now joint secretary (banking) in the ministry of finance, is tipped to take over from Quraishi.

Asked if he was moving on from Doordarshan, Quraishi, who was on deputation from his parent Haryana cadre, said he was expecting to take on other responsibilities. The Prasar Bharati board that met here this morning did not take any formal decision. Amid speculation that Quraishi was being eased out for political reasons, sources in the information and broadcasting ministry said the board was yet to be informed.

Rai, a Kerala cadre IAS officer, is in line for promotion to the additional secretary rank. Quraishi’s successor will oversee a crucial reincarnation of Doordarshan’s Metro channel as a 24-hour news telecaster and also the expansion of DD’s reach through a Direct to Home (DTH) platform on the ku band.

Information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was understood to have today cleared a note to the cabinet seeking its approval for Doordarshan’s DTH project. The project envisages an investment of Rs 165 crore. Doordarshan has booked transponder space with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and expects that the satellite’s footprint will cover not only all of South Asia but also Afghanistan.

Ministry sources said that DD’s DTH will attempt to take on board private free to air channels to start with. The ostensible reason for venturing into DTH is that Doordarshan’s terrestrial channel covers 90 per cent of the country. Coverage of the balance 10 per cent (mostly in remote areas of the Northeast) would require an investment of Rs 4,000 crore. DTH was a cheaper and more powerful medium to distribute DD’s signals.

The DTH service will be for non-cable areas to start with. Doordarshan would distribute 10,000 dishes and set-top boxes among panchayats and schools free of cost. The service is expected to take off in December.

Zee is the only other broadcaster that has got a green signal to launch its DTH service.

A Prasar Bharati official said the board meeting today also took stock of the investment to be made in upgrading DD’s infrastructure for its news channel that is headed for a November launch. Manpower and facilities are expected to cost the public broadcaster Rs 94 crore.

The Prasar Bharati board also reviewed the issue of payments owed to it by 76 producers. A sum of Rs 186 crore was due to Doordarshan. The external producers would be asked to submit a repayment plan by August 15. Prasar Bharati will also renew a request to the finance ministry to relieve the public broadcaster from paying taxes.

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