Satellite television

Sandeep Bhushan reflects on the birth of satellite television in India


Around this time, former Times of India (TOI) journalists Anikendra Nath Sen (aka Badshah), the late Dileep Padgaonkar and the late Arvind Das created Asia-Pacific Communication Associates (APCA). to launch DD3 and pooled in a paltry sum of Rs ₹ 44,000 as a registration fee.

NDTV and Aaj Tak had already secured their slots on the next channel. Sen recounts: “Dileep Padgaonkar and I met Narasimha Rao, who advised us to see (former Minister of Information and Broadcasting) KP Singh Deo. We realized we weren’t alone in line to meet Deo. In fact, he got agitated listening to us. “Oh my God, what is this news and all?” ” he said. “Why don’t you produce entertaining series? “Sir, we are from YOU,” I replied. “Have you ever been caused any problems?” We still bagged a program. There were a lot of time slots available so that wasn’t a problem. In addition, we enjoyed a great reputation as television journalists. There were no television journalists at the time. Even Prannoy Roy and Vinod Dua were on the production side. We were not in a mad rush.

In 1994, Malvika Singh, one of the promoters of BiTV, who had good relations with Congress, approached the APCA to help them set up the network. Badshah became the channel’s first editor. “She had previously raised ₹ Rs 55 crore from Arthur Andersen, the mega accounting firm later accused of rigging the accounts of energy company Enron,” Badshah said. “It was a lot of money back then. The deal with APCA was that we put together the team of journalists and so on.

But the shortage of television reporters was the least of Badshah’s problems. TVI did not have a satellite connection, as the uplink from India was technically illegal. The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, still dictated the broadcasting regime. The central government exercised an exclusive privilege over telegraph lines, virtually all modern communication devices. (There were exceptions, however. In June 1998, Indian companies with at least 80 percent of Indian shares were allowed to uplink through Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited or VSNL. Then, the following year, the government allowed uplink through C-band, a satellite tracking frequency that requires a satellite dish, removing the VSNL requirement.)

Until the government released the “Uplink Guidelines from India” in July 2000, all TV broadcast companies broadcast direct from Singapore (like Zee) or send recorded tapes overseas to be broadcast. broadcast in India. In fact, the uplink rights for news and current affairs were not officially issued until March 2003, just days before NDTV was broadcast as a 24-hour bilingual news and current affairs network. and 7 days a week.

Prior to 2003, TVI, for example, sent master tapes with reporters and even production hands to the former Soviet Union, which had an uplink agreement with the management of TVI. The downlink guidelines came even later, in November 2005, while clearance to enter the DTH sector for Indian players was not notified until around 2005.

Badshah had heard of Russian satellites readily available for a song by former Union Minister Rangarajan Kumaramangalam or “Ranga”. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, individual satellites, both in production and in space, fell into the hands of various powerful generals, who sold them on the international market. Badshah says Ranga had close ties to Moscow. Ranga, who then resigned from Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s cabinet because of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, helped TVI strike a deal with one of these satellite buccaneers, who ran an office in Bangalore.

Badshah then remembered an American official – possibly a CIA agent – who put him in touch with Scott Bayman, a senior GE executive based in Delhi. At the time, GE, the former owner of America’s first NBC network, only sold white goods in India. When Bayman realized that TVI’s deal with the Russians for their Express 6 satellite was on hold for lack of funds, he not only offered to bring his engineers in from the United States to help him give a final boost, but also promised to finance the purchase of the satellite and even launch the “hot bird”.

Naturally, the eventual merger created a buzz in the market. TOI senior executive Vijay Jindal researched Badshah and suggested launching movie and entertainment channels using the hot bird. “You tell your Ashok (Advani) and I will tell my Ashok (Jain) for a meeting and we can shake hands,” Jindal said. The TOI group already ran a production company, Times Television, which generated content for DD.

Ramoji Rao, owner of the Telugu newspaper Eenadu, also planned to start an information network. “Wouldn’t it be great if Ramoji was offered a spot on the hot bird,” Badshah thought. He urged Ashok Advani and Malvika Singh to immediately strike a deal with GE. But Advani seemed the least interested, according to Badshah. Singh later admitted that the problem was “hooking up with a Russian satellite ‘in declining orbit’ for broadcast, but more obviously mismanagement of funds.” She added, “(Ashok) Advani used the rest of the money to invest in other businesses, land, hotels… and lost it all.


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