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Murdoch pushes India to lift DTH rules

Star topper meets with politicos

NEW DELHI — Star Group topper James Murdoch is back in India, where he is leaning on the government to lift restrictions stopping Star from launching a direct-to-home (DTH) service in the territory.

The chairman of the Hong Kong-based paybox met politicos in New Delhi late last week in a follow-up to the March campaign when both Murdoch and father Rupert Murdoch lobbied the government and industry bosses.

However, the government looks unlikely to change its current policy: Media companies can own only 20% of a DTH venture, and foreign investment is capped at 49%. The Star topper claims this will make an India launch unviable. In an attempt to get around the restrictions, Murdoch has set up Mumbai-based company Space Television.

Space TV applied for a DTH license from the government in April and is urging pols to cut the 10% tax on annual revenue and the import tax on set-top boxes.

Conditional access

In a related story, the government is set to introduce the conditional access system allowing viewers to pay for the channels they watch rather than for a catchall bouquet of channels.

Cable operators have welcomed the move, but networks including Star and other broadcasters are unhappy with the system, which will cut their revenues and render some channels impractical to operate.