Arnab Goswami gained ‘illegal’ access to DD FreeDish users

The matter has once again come in the limelight after the Mumbai Police started probe into the alleged TRP manipulation case and filed its supplementary chargesheet, where it also attached what WhatsApp & email chats between former BARC CEO Partho...

Mumbai: Since its launch in May 2017, the Arnab Goswami-owned English news channel Republic TV appears to have been using private direct-to-home (DTH) service Dish TV to circumvent the auction process and gain what opposition parties and others are describing as ‘illegal’ access to Prasar Bharati-owned DD FreeDish.

The practice continued till September 2019, when Dish TV, after receiving orders from the information & broadcasting ministry, started encrypting all channels. Other broadcasters had complained at the time but no action seems to have been taken.

Republic TV had initially signed carriage deals with private DTH players, including Dish TV, which owns bandwidth on GSAT15 satellite for retransmission of TV channels.


As the GSAT15 satellite is also used by DD FreeDish, Dish TV’s bandwidth is co-located with DD FreeDish’s bandwidth. This resulted in Dish TV users receiving free-to-air (FTA) channels that are available on FreeDish – without any extra cost. The reverse was not true — DD FreeDish subscribers couldn’t downlink the Dish TV channels for free, because pay channels are uplinked in an encrypted format. However, Republic TV started upliniking the channel in unencrypted format.

This allowed Republic TV to reach over 22 million DD FreeDish users, without participating in auctions for the slot and paying an annual carriage fee of Rs 8-12 crore, as paid by competitors for almost two years.

“The loss to the exchequer may not be too big – under ₹25 crore – but the access also helped the channel get extra viewership,” said a media buyer.
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Incidentally, the MIB was made aware of the issue by rival channels, and the complaint was duly forwarded to Prasar Bharati in May 2017.

In its reply on June 20, 2017, the public broadcaster accused Republic TV and Dish TV of “diluting competition” and “defeating the due process of auctioning” DD Free Dish slots.

Meanwhile, MIB sent a letter to Dish TV enquiring about the “unauthorised usage” of DD FreeDish by Republic TV on May 18, 2017. To this, Dish TV replied on May 22 that it needed two weeks to file a response. However, it never did and the ministry did not raise the issue, despite Prasar Bharati’s report on the matter.

Finally, in September 2019, Dish TV replied to the ministry that as per the government's direction, all channels and services "have been encrypted" and that the DTH player is in compliance with all requirements.
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The matter has once again come in the limelight after the Mumbai Police started probe into the alleged TRP manipulation case and filed its supplementary chargesheet, where it also attached what WhatsApp and email chats between former BARC Chief Executive Partho Dasgupta and Goswami, and others.

The chats show that just a few weeks after Prasar Bharati replied to the MIB, Dasgupta shared the information with Goswami. “Apparently there is some complaint about Republic in ministry – it’s yet to be referred to us – one JS told – but I think it will never come,” Dasgupta messaged Goswami, hinting that he received the information from a joint secretary.
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To this, Arnab Goswami replied, “About the Dish FTA thing. Rathore told me and said he’s keeping it aside.”

Rathore, likely refers to the then MoS for the I&B ministry Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.
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