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Western media congloms will be watching closely as Indian commercial broadcast group Zee Entertainment Enterprises attempts to break into China.

The congloms are itching for more access and pressing for liberalization in China through the World Trade Organization.

Indian media have reported that general entertainment net Zee TV has been granted landing rights in China, allowing local satcasters to include it in their bouquets. Agreement would make Zee the first Indian net to operate legally across the border with its richer neighbor.

Zee has not confirmed the deal, but company sources say it has been told to expect a greenlight.

Zee has been seeking the right to operate in China since September 2006, but China’s State Administration for Radio Film and Television has scarcely added to its 30-strong list of approved foreign nets in more than two years.

Complicating matters is long-standing diplomatic mistrust and border disputes between the two giant neighbors, which both have populations over 1 billion. But a breakthrough may have been achieved during this week’s state visit to China by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who was also on the trip to Beijing, reportedly said that, as a reciprocal move, China Central Television’s English-language service CCTV-9 has been given permission to broadcast in India.

“I am hoping that this market access proposal will be accepted and, in turn, will strengthen our cultural understanding of each other,” Nath was quoted as saying after his meeting with Chinese Minister Chen Deming. “It will also open up the Chinese market for our content services, animation, gaming and special effects in the future.”

Zee chairman Subhash Chandra said CCTV was cleared for broadcast in India 10 days ago and a reciprocal arrangement is “imminent.”

The other foreign channels on Sarft’s list are generally available only in “foreigner compounds” and hotels of three-star quality or above.