August 17, 2007

DD plans health channel at Rs 180 crore

To add to the worries of the cable operators and broadcasters, the government is set to launch a 24-hour “must carry” health channel called DD-Health at an annual outlay of Rs 180 crore.

According to sources, the DD-Health will be jointly funded and promoted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Prasar Bharati and will cater to the needs of medical students across India.

The DD-Health channel will be operational next year, sources said, but the “must carry” rider makes it mandatory for all cable operators to carry the channel in the prime band-a frequency band.

“The list of must carry channels of Doordarshan has been increasing causing worries to broadcasters and cable operators as these channels are not as popular as sports channels or entertainment channels but because of government diktat have to be carried thereby leaving less slots for popular channels,” a senior executive of a cable distribution company said.

Technically, the prime band can only host up to 12 channels in the current analogue mode of cable distribution in the country. Therefore, leading channel genres like entertainment, news and sports broadcasters pay a large sum of money (carriage fees), to the cable operators to carry their channels in this band.

Six Doordarshan channels including DD-National, DD-News, Lok Sabha TV, and Rajya Sabha TV have to be mandatorily carried by the cable operators according to the government order.

“The DD-Health channel is an extension of similar projects undertaken by the Prasar Bharati in the past including its ongoing narrowcast transmission of agriculture series across various districts,” a source in Prasar Bharati said.

“If DD-Health is must carried then it will become popular and useful to millions of people who require health or medical related advice,” a source in Doordarshan said.

For making DD-Health a “must carry” channel, the information and broadcasting ministry will have to amend the Section 8 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

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