DTT should be completed in Delhi by 2010

 NEW DELHI: A sub-group on 'Going Digital', set up by the Planning Commission, has recommended that digital terrestrial transmission by Doordarshan should be launched with a slogan Digital Delhi by 2010 to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in that year.

The Sub-Group headed by Rajeev Ratna Shah, Member Secretary in the Planning Commission and a former CEO of Prasar Bharati, said a phased approach should be taken for going digital covering all the seven mega cities by 2011 in the first phase and the rest of the country by 2013.

The sub-group, comprising 17 members, was set up by the Committee on Information, Communication and Entertainment (ICE) that has been examining the larger issue of convergence and advent of modern technology. Members include the secretaries in Information and Broadcasting and Department of Telecommunications, the Prasar Bharati CEO, the presidents of Cetma, Mait, Nasscom, and ISP Association of India, co-chairman of the Ficci entertainment committee Kunal Dasgupta, chairman of the CII entertainment committee, chairman of the Film & Television Producers Guild of India, president of the Cable TV Operators Association, Rajiv Mehrotra who is the managing trustee of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, Virat Bhatia from AT&T Communications Services, Zee Telefilms President Abhijit Saxena, Sameer Rao who is vice-president in charge of strategy, planning & regulatory in STAR India, and a representative of the Prime Minister's Office.


It was also agreed that a group chaired by BS Lalli, the CEO of Prasar Bharati who is also chairman of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, and some private broadcasters like Star, Zee, Sony, Eenadu etc. and their major MSOs will examine an 11-stage process and firm up their sequencing and put the entire process on a "digital upgrade timeline".

Digital migration process

Ideally, the Sub-Group said the migration process must commence from Delhi in 2010, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games, and proceed to other mega cities by 2011 and Tier II and Tier III cities by 2012. In non-urban areas simulcast can continue for a few more years. Analogue transmission should be completely phased out by 2015 as the outer limit. It was decided that to keep the transition costs to the minimum, the switching over time as well as the simulcasting period should be kept to the minimum.

There is need for convergence in regulation in the light of developments in technology and the I&B Ministry was requested by the sub-group to take a fresh look at the proposal for having a common communications convergence regulator with separate bureaus under it for dealing with content and carriage. A supplementary report will be submitted with regard to regulatory issues relating to going digital.

All the content producers - Prasar Bharati as well as private operators - should provide agreed and identified channels in the digital / HDTV format to MSO / cable operators under "Must Carry" clause.

High Definition TV should be introduced in a phased manner starting from Delhi (2008-09), extending it to all the six mega cities. Commonwealth Games should be covered in HDTV format in 2010.


Spectrum planning

The I&B Ministry, private broadcasters and service providers along with the Department of Telecommunications (WPC cell) should work in a coordinated manner to identify spectrum requirements keeping their rollout plans so that spectrum planning could be proactively made. A Spectrum Management Group could be set up to achieve this.

Prasar Bharati should work out the financial implications of going digital, covering AIR and Doordarshan operations and submit the same to the Planning Commission.

Prasar Bharati should digitally archive all its contents including educational contents for providing them for distribution streaming audio-video technologies. Prasar Bharati may also work out a mechanism to leverage the rich content available by appropriately pricing them and retailing them. All Prasar Bharati content of Classics or Fiction should be made web accessible with premium content accessible through payment gateway. Public service broadcasting content should be freely accessible on the web.

Digital cinema

The Sub-Group has also recommended amending the Cinematograph Act 1952 for inclusion of digital cinema. It said digital cinema should be seen as a means of securing the Intellectual Property Rights of the producer. Digitally recorded content taken from satellite in an encrypted conduit provides a failsafe method of delivering films to exhibitors directly, without intermediary or distributor's interface at multiple locations simultaneously, in streaming audio-video-mode. It said this was the best guarantee against piracy. Digital cinema should, therefore, be encouraged by recourse to various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives.

Production of cinema in digital format could be on lower tax regime and the theaters that have installed digital cinema exhibition facilities can be subjected to say lower entertainment tax. This would need to be taken up with State Governments, the Sub-Group said.

It said all conditional access devices (and Set Top Boxes) should be built on common standards for inter-operability, so that customers are not put to inconvenience. This will also help in better absorption, acceptability of digital technology. The plain-vanilla-STB should lend itself to modular insertion of proprietary data to include value-added services.

Content providers should be encouraged to work on creation of domain specific server farms and data depositories. The concept of digital libraries promoted by the Department of Information & Technology should also be publicly made available. Create open access platforms like Google libraries and others should also be encouraged. Memory modules could specially be created for lawyers, doctors, accountants and other professionals for instant data mining and retrieval in respect of their domain.

Triple play services

Triple play services riding on entertainment related applications would be able to create the most viable business models for spread of rural connectivity. Applications of Wi Max technology will allow entertainment to rural areas and this will provide ubiquitous Broadband experience to rural areas. Just as Wi Fi band has been delicensed, we need to move to the next step in encouraging proliferation of Wi Max technology for which the Wi Max band (2.5 GHz / 3.5 GHz / 700 MHz or existing Wi Fi band 2.4 - 2.48 GHz) could be delicensed for rural connectivity.

Content creation would be a specialised area requiring thorough understanding of the local requirements and language that can only be done through local entrepreneurs. The Rural Content Provider (RCP) would provide content and other facilities, including entertainment, which will be of interest to the rural population. Delivery of services could be through home TV or Mobile telephone. The business model of such an RCP would vary from region to region and would be driven by the market. The department of IT and the Department of Telecommunications need to evolve a suitable policy framework that would encourage such RCPs.

The Deparment of Information & Technology/National Informatics Centre should work out a comprehensive plan for rollout of statewise, regionwise and citywise GIS database and encourage private enterprise to do customized applications and value addition for various public sector as well as private sector applications.

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