Out-of-the-box: Govt Weighs Star Plea

New Delhi: | Updated: Jul 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The open architecture set-top box norm for Direct-to-Home (DTH) television broadcasting is likely to be changed, if the government takes into account Star’s concern over the issue. When in his recent visit, Star group chairman and CEO James Murdoch told government authorities that open-architecture set-top box was not practical to implement, government decided to revisit the issue, according to sources.

Star, which is among the broadcasters keen to join the DTH platform in India, has all along opposed the open-architecture norm, but only now is the government ready to re-examine the issue. For technical inputs on the issue, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) would be consulted first. Indicated sources, that the norms may be changed, if BIS so feels.

According to a government official, the objective behind the open-architecture norm was to give consumers greater choice through interoperability option, like in the case of a cellphone.

But point out industry insiders that open-architecture is not commercially viable in DTH.

Therefore, in most countries DTH operators have the closed-architecture structure, so that they can keep consumers to themselves by offering their proprietary set-top boxes at a competitive price. There are some stray exceptions, where government has mandated open-architecture set-top boxes, making it a very expensive proposition for the DTH operator.

Star, which has already made an application for DTH, with Space TV as its front company for the venture, is in an arrangement with NDS, a proprietary set-top box manufacturer.

While the government may bend its DTH norms, particularly related to architecture of the box, in favour of Star, the broadcaster would need to reconstitute Space TV to be able to enter the DTH

space. Currently, Space TV has shown its capital at Rs 5 lakh, which is not in consonance with the required investment of around Rs 1,200 crore for the DTH project.

So, Star’s answer to the government stand that size matters is its request for proprietary set-top box norms.