74% FDI in DTH raises security concerns

Jawahar Goel, the managing director of Dish TV, is unequivocally opposed to increasing the limit of foreign investment in direct-to-home (DTH) sector in India from the current 49 per cent to 74 per cent.

In conversation with Shuchi Bansal, Goel focuses on security as a major concern in case the government raises the FDI bar.

Why are you against increasing the FDI limit for DTH?

There is a clause in the DTH Policy which states that “all foreign personnel likely to be deployed by way of appointment, contract or consultancy etc. by the licensee for installation, maintenance and operation of the licensee’s services shall be required to obtain security clearance from the government of India prior to their deployment.”

On one hand, such a clause was included in the policy because broadcasting and uplinking stations must be secure.

But now the government is keen to give away management control in DTH operations to foreign nationals. If it does that, it must remove the clause. We’ve raised the security issue in the past, too, as the proposal was on the verge of getting clearance some time ago. We are only asking the government to take a informed view of the situation.

Did you make a presentation to the ministry recently?

Yes. The ministry officials asked us to show the single messaging system which DTH technology makes possible. This means that any DTH operator can send a message to an individual viewer on his\her TV screen. You can imagine the implications of this service if it’s not handled responsibly.

Currently, the service is banned by the government. This could be a security concern and we have been told that there is no way to intercept these messages.

But wouldn’t the increased foreign investment limit help the DTH sector which is making huge losses?

Today not a single company has exhausted its foreign investment limit. Within 49 per cent , the Foreign Direct Investment limit currently is not more 20 per cent. The remaining 29 per cent is NRIs, OCB and FIIs. May be the sectoral divide could be removed so that FDI could go up within the 49 per cent limit.

If Rupert Murdoch moves up his stake in Tata Sky to 74 per cent, he could gobble up Dish TV. Is that a worry?

I think every Indian should be worried about Rupert Murdoch. We have seen how he operates in other countries. Having said that, we are not worried about Tata Sky. We still register more subscribers than Tata Sky every day at 5,000 boxes. What the DTH players need to worry about is Sun Direct enrolling 12,000 customers a day.

Thanks : Bussiness Standards

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