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Center asks CAG to audit DTH firms for suspected discrepancies in license fee calculation

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India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has been asked to conduct an audit to ensure that the amount to be submitted by DTH operators to the Center in the form of license fees is properly assessed.

Sumit Kumar Singh

New Delhi,UPDATED: 26 Oct 2022 16:19 IST

DTH operators

DTH operators indicate that their volumes have been declining quarter-on-quarter for a while now. (Representative photo: AFP)

By Sumit Kumar Singh: As direct-to-home (DTH) operators seek license fee waivers, citing a decline in subscriber numbers over the years, the Center on Wednesday requested an audit of DTH providers for “suspected discrepancies” in income calculations. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has written to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India requesting that it conduct an audit of all DTH service providers since its inception.

A senior ministry official said it was a much-needed move and had been communicated to the CAG this week. The Ministry has requested the auditor to properly review and collect the subscriber data and the amount to be submitted to the Center in the form of license fee.

On May 11, the operators had requested a license fee waiver, due to the “sharp decline” in subscriber numbers over the years. They had approached the Center to waive the 8 percent license fee imposed on them in line with a similar proposal for broadband services in order to remain competitive in the market.

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The DTH association had contacted the I&B ministry after a similar proposal was pending with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to waive the license fee for broadband services. The DTH association had also contacted DoT.

The DTH operators have stated that their volumes have been declining quarter-on-quarter for a while and have put thousands of crores of investment at risk.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended that the DoT waive license fees for broadband services for 5 years.

DTH licenses

Between 2003 and 2007, Center granted six DTH licenses to companies including Airtel Digital TV, Tata Play, Dish TV, Sun Direct, Big TV/Independent TV and Videocon’s D2H TV. Currently, Airtel Digital TV, Tata Play, Dish TV and Sun Direct are in the works. The four DTH operators and the state-owned Doordarshan have a total of 68 million plus subscribers.

They pay eight percent as a license fee to the Center.

The government has pointed out that the revenue calculations, as recorded by several operators, have fallen and they had not expected things to happen. According to the I&B ministry, the revenue from the DTH license fee, along with that of commercial TV services, FM radio and others, would exceed Rs 1,000 crore in FY23.

In 2020, the Ministry of I&B has sent a notice to Dish TV, owned by the Essel Group, to pay Rs 4,164 crore in the form of license fees and interest due since the company was founded in 2003. Apart from that, there are several lawsuits related to the licensing issue.


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