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E-Pao! Essays - Every one's 'Direct To Home' (DTH)

Every one's 'Direct To Home' (DTH)

By: KS Sharma/The Sangai Express *



We have heard about, first a green revolution, then a white revolution and then a telecom revolution in our country. They have had their impact on our lives in many ways. The fourth revolution that we can be truly proud of is the 'Direct To Home' service of Prasar Bharati, which was inaugurated by the Hon'ble Prime Minister on 16th December 2004. For us in Prasar Bharati it is a revolution as well as a dream come true.

Imagine a Malayalam speaking person being able to watch his favourite Malayalam channel of Doordarshan in any part of the country, say Leh, at any time of the day or night on continuous basis without having to pay any recurring charges for such a kind of a service. Language channels of DD are not necessarily serviced adequately even in cable homes due to the limited capacity of various cable operators and due to limited population in a given geographical area, of various major linguistic groups. For example, even though there may be a good number of Punjabi speaking people in Hyderabad, but due to their small number and scattered living, no cable operator in Hyderabad will be willing to transmit even DD Punjabi, not to speak of other private Punjabi channels. Now, with the DTH of Doordarshan, any Punjabi speaking person who wants to watch DD Punjabi can watch it from any corner of the country without any medium like cable operator. This is true of every other language group like Assamese, Telugu, Tamil - a total of eleven language channels shown by DD 24 hours a day. Now, with the launch of Doordarshan's DTH the reach of every language channel of DD has become truly national.

Similarly, DD National, DD News, DD Sports, DD India and DD Bharati, which are truly national in their character, are also available all over the country without a cable operator. Two newly launched channels of Doordarshan -DD Lok Sabha and DD Rajya Sabha are also available on the platform.

All India Radio's dream was that it should reach every home in the country. While 99% of the population has been reached by All India Radio through its 215 stations spread all-over the country, the listener still gets only local/regional channels. Today with DTH, the listener would get in a digital mode, through the medium of TV, his local/regional channel/Vividh Bharati/his nearest FM metro station, apart from nine other language channels of AIR currently. A pleasant fall out of this DTH delivery of radio is that even if locally, for example, if one wishes to hear AIR, Jalandhar through radio, it will be in Medium Wave, whereas through DTH it will be in digital mode, which is far superior to medium wave signal. Getting radio on TV sets heralds the beginning of digital convergence. Currently 12 language channels of AIR are on DTH platform on a 24 hours basis. The number of radio channels would go up to 30 to include many more languages and dialects.

In the cable dry areas, a viewer of television would now be able to see, again without any recurring costs, channels like BBC, Aaj Tak, Headlines Today, Sun TV, ETV Marathi and a host of other popular channels numbering 13, thus opening up an entertainment revolution for the common man. A viewer who hitherto was able to get only one channel free of cost would get at one go 33 channels with a one time investment of Rs 100 per channel at present.

The chances are that the number of channels would go up to 100 in due course without any further investment. Furthermore, owners of Black & White TV sets, whose channel capacity is limited to 10-12, would with the installation of DTH Set Top Box get automatically upgraded to 33 channels as of now.

Out of the 202 million households in our country only 90 million households have TV and 112 million households have no TV. However, this number is larger than the number of telephone connections, which brings out how popular television is with all our households in the country. Amongst 112 million households where there is no television, there are at least 20 million households, which do not have a terrestrial television signal available to them.

Therefore these 20 million households would, subject to their purchasing power, are likely to go for our DTH with gusto. Even if 50% of them, on the basis of the national average households with TV, were to take TV connection, they would definitely like to go for DTH, since with an additional financial investment cost of about Rs 3000, in addition to the cost of the TV set, they would be suddenly in a position to see 30 channels and listen to 12 radio channels as against an earlier scenario where they got nothing of television and may be one local radio channel.

Similarly, amongst the 90 million households with TV, 50% of them are cable dry i.e. to say 45 million are having no access to cable and out of this 45 million households receiving only the terrestrial signal of Doordarshan, 30 million are in the rural areas. Therefore, it is difficult at this stage even to comprehend the silent revolution that would be brought about in the rural side of our country to empower people with information and entertainment that is badly needed to make better-informed decisions. The primary focus of Doordarshan's DTH is to bridge the gap in the cable dry homes and the hitherto uncovered areas.

The self-employment potential of this project for younger people in the villages to sell these dishes and Set Top Boxes at every nook and corner of the country is stupendous. The district rural development agencies can take the lead to provide such self-employment opportunities for the sale of these Set Top Boxes and dishes. Banks can provide even an initial investment cost on installment basis. TV manufacturers could incorporate the Set Top Boxes into the TV itself to make their sales more aggressive in the rural areas.

Already another 40 channels, which are free to air beaming into our country, are in the wait-list to join Doordarshan's DTH platform. We have no doubt that those who are on the WorldSpace platform of radio would be more than willing to join us once the opportunities are opened up on that front too. The potential of this service is awesome and we have no doubt that it will be taken by our people with lots of enthusiasm.

This service will naturally promote national integration by mirroring the cultural diversity of our nation in every home with a TV. This service also enables us to listen to radio through television. This service is thus totally a Public Broadcaster's vision for a more united India and a vibrant democracy.




* This article was published at The Sangai Express by KS Sharma.
KS Sharma writes regularly at The Sangai Express.
This article was webcasted on January 24, 2005.

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