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Prasar Bharati's DTH telecast from today

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Dec. 15

THE Prasar Bharati-proposed direct-to-home (DTH) venture will finally commence operations from Thursday. For starters 33 television channels and 12 radio channels will be on offer.

Speaking to newspersons after the board meeting, Mr K.S. Sarma, CEO, Prasar Bharati, said, "We have decided to increase the number of television channels to 50 by next year. Also the number of radio channels will also be increased."

He said that there are about 20 million households that do not have access to any television signal - either through cable or terrestrial. The public broadcaster is targeting those very households.

It hopes to sell at least one million set-top boxes and dish antennae in the next one year. About 10,000 boxes have already been distributed free-of-cost as a sampling exercise.

However, even before the DTH operations has taken off, Prasar Bharati is faced with the challenge of tackling boxes from the grey market.

"We have decided to call for bids from private dealers. On payment of a minimum guarantee of Rs 2 crore, these dealers would be allowed to sell the DTH boxes authorised by Prasar Bharati for authenticity," said Mr Sarma.

He hopes that this exercise will be completed by January-end.

The DTH boxes will be available at Rs 3,000-3,500 and the service will be free-of-cost to the consumer.

"Hence, we have only free-to-air (FTA) channels on our bouquet. We will not add any pay channels as we are committed to being a free service," he said.

A number of spiritual, music and some foreign channels have offered to part of the bouquet.

Pak cricket tour telecast

THE Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has approached the national broadcaster for telecast of the Pakistan tour of India next year.

"The BCCI has approached us and we will make our financial offer. The issue was placed before the Prasar Bharati board and an empowered committee has been set up," said Mr Sarma.

The series will comprise three test matches and five one-day internationals to be played in February-March 2005. Mr Sarma said that the public broadcaster would prefer to go exclusive and not share the rights with another private broadcaster.

Meanwhile for the tours of Australia, South Africa and the one-off match with Pakistan, the Prasar Bharati managed to rake in Rs 100 crore. Of this, it had to pay the cricket board Rs 82 crore while netting a profit of Rs 18 crore.

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