STAR CEO To Meet I&B Minister

New Delhi | Updated: Jul 1 2004, 03:45am hrs
Worried over the government silence on its direct-to-home (DTH) project, STAR CEO Michelle Guthrie is coming to the capital, according to industry sources. Ms Guthrie, who is based in Hong Kong, is expected to meet information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy later this week. STARs Space TV DTH venture has Tatas as a majority partner with 80 per cent stake. Ms Guthrie, whos been quite upbeat about introducing DTH in India, replaced James Murdoch as the group CEO last year.

The DTH application has been pending with the government for several months now.

The Tata-STAR project is learnt to be gearing up for a November launch.

Even as the top management at STAR wants to talk to the minister about the issues related to its DTH project, the government may do some straight-talking on other ventures as well. Radio, for instance. Radio City, an FM station for which Ispat groups Music Broadcast Private Ltd (MBPL) has the licence, gets its content from Digiwave. And, Digiwave is a subsidiary of STAR India Private Limited, whose holding company is the STAR Group. This is a violation of the governments FM radio policy.

Under the FM radio licence agreement, MBPL is expected to carry out broadcasting on its own and should not outsource it to anyone else. Also, even as only up to 20 per cent of FII investment is allowed in a FM radio venture, it was pointed out a few months ago that Digiwave funds MBPLs radio project to a large extent.

The government is likely to tell STAR to adhere with FM radio norms. As for DTH, its only a matter of time, according to sources. With STAR being a powerful foreign broadcaster, every political regime likes to deal with the group a bit cautiously, sources added.