Illegal satellite dishes drive China DTH reform

John C. Tanner
17 Jun 2010

China’s huge population of illegal satellite dishes – some 60 million – is driving a change in government DTH policy, a senior industry exec revealed yesterday.

Huang Baozhong, vice president of China Satellite Communications, the country’s sole DTH provider, said takeup of satellite TV services “surprised everyone because it showed that there was very strong market demand.”

Speaking at a panel at the CommunicAsia2010 Satellite Summit Wednesday, he said the 20-centimeter dishes sell for under RMB200 (S$41), making them very affordable.

As a result, China’s broadcast regulator SARFT is considering allowing them to continue operating, if only because the establishment last year of China Satcom’s domestic DTH service – which carries 48 encrypted free channels, all of them either run by CCTV or provincial commercial broadcasters – has discouraged pirates from viewing foreign content.

“Since our service launched, most of the illegal DTH viewers have turned their dishes away from foreign satellites and onto our domestic platform,” Huang said. “This helps the Chinese government with propaganda control.”

SARFT is reviewing other aspects of DTH as demand escalates for more video services, including HDTV, 3DTV, IPTV interactive TV and mobile TV, Huang said.

Among other things, SARFT is considering allowing select CCTV channels to become pay-TV channels on China Satcom’s platform. It may also allow provincial broadcasters to uplink satellite programming direct to China Satcom’s birds rather than send them via terrestrial fiber to Beijing and Shanghai for uplink as currently required by law.

“I think we will see a breakthrough on this soon, probably before the end of the year,” Huang said.

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