Pubcaster Doordarshan’s cash cow Freedish, which is a free direct-to-home (DTH) platform with an estimated 22 million customers, will upgrade to 250 channels in the next two years, Minister of State in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) Rajyavardhan Rathore said. DD Freedish will also have the capability of carrying HD channels. Rathore informed the Lok Sabha that DD National has been uplinked in HD since 1 January. “Prasar Bharati has informed that Doordarshan’s DD National channel has been uplinked in the HD format since 01.01.2017. Besides, Doordarshan’s DTH platform DD Freedish has also been approved for upgrade to 250 channels, having capability of carrying HD channels also. The target for upgrade of DTH is two years,” Rathore said in response to a question. In December 2015, the then I&B Minister Arun Jaitley had said that Freedish would get additional transponder capacity on GSAT-15 to enhance its capacity to 250 channels under the 12th Five-Year Plan. DD recently achieved another milestone by appointing five STB manufacturers for supplying encrypted MPEG4 STBs for Freedish. These original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are Modern Communication & Broadcast System, Velankani Electronics, BGM Holding Company, KMTS Engineering and Millennium Technology. The authorised OEMs will have to integrate their STBs with the iCAS and DD-approved firmware/middleware. Freedish provides 80 channels including mandatory DD channels. The plan is to take that up to 104 channels. The pubcaster recently hiked the reserve price for non-news channels to a whopping Rs 8 crore. The reserve price for news channels is Rs 4.8 crore. Freedish had earned Rs 275.4 crore in carriage fee in FY17 from the sale of 54 slots.  – AirDD