Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DD may go digital, open up for pvt broadcasters

Along with the television antennas sticking out from millions of roof tops across the country, DD’s TV audiences could soon need set-top boxes. For the Government behemoth, plans to migrate to digital terrestrial broadcasting on a pan-Indiabasis, and is looking to partner with private broadcasters. It has submitted a detailed proposal to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, which could cost the national exchequer about Rs 3,500 crore, according to estimates made in 2006.

Need for set-top boxes

Currently, DD is the only broadcaster which has permission to offer terrestrial TV services. All the private players, such as Star, Sony or Sun TV are available on satellite-based TV platforms, such as cable and direct-to-home. But DD’s terrestrial platform currently is on the analogue mode, which offers poorer viewing quality. If DD’s plan to go digital goes through, then consumers will get digital quality TV services. They will, however, have to invest in a set- top box, which costs about Rs 2,000, which could also be subsidised by the Government. According to DD officials, the transition from analogue to digital could take place over a period of 4-5 years. DD’s channels offered on the terrestrial mode and on its DTH have been free-to-air, it is exploring the option of monetising the investment for digital conversion by allowing private broadcasters to utilise its platform on a revenue sharing basis. DD also proposes to host mobile TV services on the digitised network. Currently consumers get DD National, DD news and a third regional language channel on the terrestrial network.

Turning digital, will improve DD’s transmission strength to accommodate about 6-8 channels/transmitter. Interested private broadcaster could use the additional channels to offer paid TV services to nearly 120 million homes. They could also put up digital transmitters at their own cost on DD’s towers and add more channels to the bouquet. Though, in the case of FM radio, the Government has only allowed city-wise licences. The telecom regulator had recommended the opening up the terrestrial sector to private players in 2005, and for community television.

Trials in delhi

Doordarshan has already conducted trials of its digital terrestrial transmission services in Delhi. In 2006, the projected cost of migrating to digital had been estimated at Rs 3,531 crore by a Committee of Financial Restructuring of Prasar Bharati. Earlier, an expert group set up by the Prime Minister’s Office had set 2015 as the deadline to phase out analogue TV transmission completely. Prasar Bharti was to start DTT in 2010; the report of this group had, keeping the Commonwealth Games in mind, even coined a slogan ‘Digital Delhi by 2010’ for the Capital.

content - Hindu Business Line

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