MUMBAI: Is the Modi government likely to pry open terrestrial television to private broadcasters? Terrestrial TV has been the exclusive turf of public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, apart from a short stint where it leased out a programming block to Ozzie broadcaster Kerry Packer around 12-13 years ago.
It is quite likely to, if one goes by the response of Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar to a question in the Parliament on 9 July. PTI quotes him as saying that Doordarshan is digitising its analogue terrestrial network.
“Consequently the number of digitised channels would go up. DD would thereafter be in a position to invite private free-to-air TV channels for meaningful business plan in this regard,” he added.
This was one of the options provided by the Sam Pitroda committee earlier this year. The committee had recommended two options: one to totally move the pubcaster to satellite transmission via DD Direct. And, two, to upgrade its analogue terrestrial network to DVBT2 to meet its need to deliver content meeting both national and regional coverage needs.
The report had recommended that DD could opt for selected use of DVB-T2/DVB-NGH terrestrial technology in partnership with private players if commercially feasible in order to enhance the capacity of each transmitter to eight to 10 channels.
The committee, however, had cautioned that DD would have to transform itself into two separate companies handling content creation and managing infrastructure to allow private participation. Additionally, it had added that DD would have to provide a subsidy to increase the affordability of DVBT2/DVB-NGH receivers as they are not readily available at affordable prices in India.
Even the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had in 2005 recommended that terrestrial television should be thrown open to private sector participation as is the case in most countries.