DTT & DTH high on govt agenda

The Working Group on the I&B sector for the 10th Five-Year Plan has recommended 100 per cent digitisation of production facilities and automation of studio operations at major Doordarshan Kendras in the next five years.

The report, which suggests 100 per cent coverage of the potential TV population in the country with multi channel television services, also advocates efforts to ensure that major TV services of Prasar Bharati are available to people elsewhere in the world through various modes of distribution including webcasting, Direct To Home (DTH) and cable. The extension of coverage, however, should be achieved by deploying a technology that is most cost effective after evaluating all options, the report cautions. Currently, DD1 the main channel of Doordarshan is available to nearly 89.1 per cent of the population, according to the report.

I&B minister Sushma Swaraj - In favour of fully digitized, automated DD Kendras in five years

The working group has provided a green signal to Doordarshan to start IT enabled multimedia services like interactive TV, webcasting and data casting on a pilot basis and has advised DD to take up small High Definition Television (HDTV) schemes on an experimental basis.

The report is clearly inclined favourably towards DTH and Digial Terrestrial Television (DTT), and stresses on the conversion of last mile connectivity in the digital mode. "This would require appropriate policy to encourage and promote use of digital set top boxes at the viewers‘ premises, which is essential to enable them to receive digital signals, at least in the initial stages," the report notes.

The report criticizes the government for treating policies relating to digital television services as a source of revenue, saying these will eventually be counter productive. Maintaining that digital set top boxes be given the same treatment in their promotion and taxation as that given to computer hardware, the report censures the present policy on DTH that has ‘not encouraged any player to come so far and promote the growth of digital set top boxes.‘

Will DTH in India become a reality in the next five years?

In its suggestions, the group has noted that digital production facilities at DD Kendras would ensure good quality convergent ready content while automation at the centers would cut down on operational and maintenance costs. The Group has however allowed leeway for other Kendras, allowing them 50 per cent upgradation of current facilities in the 10th Five Year Plan.

The report advises caution on investment in DTT, maintainintg that a commercially viable business model should first be established before the government takes a plunge in these uncharted waters. The report is also keen on improving the technical quality of content and making it easily available to multimedia treatment. Almost half the production facilities at DD‘s Kendras have been currently upgraded from analog to digital; the report however, stresses 100 per cent digitization of facilities in major kendras to enable content distribution in an interactive mode on any platform including the Internet. A shift from manual operations to automated operations both in production and transmission has also been recommended to economise on these costs.

Doordarshan, the report notes, should keep itself abreast with the latest know how in the realm of HDTV to enable its promotion as and when affordable to viewers. The emerging arena of HDTV enables delivery of film quality pictures to viewers‘ homes but is prohibitively priced even in developed countries. The report suggests that DD could take up small projects on HDTV on an experimental basis, as recent market trends in the US show that alternative modes of distribution are catching on very fast.

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