Star's demand for 500,000-sub minimum nixed

NEW DELHI — Rupert Murdoch’s Star Group welcomed a ruling Monday by India’s broadcast tribunal that it must provide its channels to rival Zee for satellite broadcast, saying it will help clarify issues surrounding satellite in India.

This comes despite the fact that the tribunal ruled that the channels must be charged at 27 rupees (50¢) per subscriber — about half what’s being charged on cable. It also nixed Star’s demand for a 500,000-subscriber minimum for sharing channels.

“We believe it will help in clearing the air on a number of critical areas that impact DTH (direct-to-home satellite) in particular and will be a positive impetus to their development,” Star said in a statement. “However, there may be some specific areas within the judgment that will require further clarification.”

On Friday, India’s Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal ordered Star India to provide its channels to Zee’s DishTV within 15 days.

The regulator said the order “will be applicable to all DTH operators entering into commercial deals with broadcasters.”

In May, ASC Enterprises, part of the Essel Group, which includes Zee Telefims, sued Star India after it denied signals to DishTV. It said this was in contravention of regulations providing for nondiscriminatory sharing of content by broadcasters across all delivery platforms.

Star later offered its signals to ASC, but said it had to take both its bouquets, comprising 14 channels.

ASC only wanted Bouquet-1, the costlier of the two, which consists of nine popular channels such as Star Plus, Star Sports, Star World and ESPN.

The tribunal ruled in Star’s favor and ordered ASC to subscribe to all 14 channels, but it rejected the Murdoch group’s contention that because DTH is a new medium in India, the regulations on nondiscriminatory sharing did not apply.

Star is about to launch its own satellite service in India with Mumbai-based Tata Group, an 80-20 venture that has been held up by government reluctance to allow a foreign player into the DTH market.

It now is expected to launch in August or September.

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