Friday, September 23, 2011

The Future of Doordarshan

Doordarshan made a modest beginning in  September, 1959 with the start of an experimental service at Delhi.  Regular TV service was later started in 1965.  Colour TV and National networking through satellite were introduced  in 1982. Over the years, Doordarshan has not only expanded its network throughout length and breadth of the country but also kept pace with new technological developments in the field of broadcasting. Since inception of Doordarshan, major thrust area before 10 th five year Plan had been to expand terrestrial network to cover as much population as possible and establish programme production facilities in different parts of country to facilitate local programme production. There was a pragmatic policy shift in 10 th   five  year  plan with  the adoption of alternative technology option of DTH for providing TV coverage to the areas uncovered by terrestrial transmission. Digitalization and automation were the other thrust areas of 10 th  Plan.  Thrust areas of 11 th  Plan are - digitalization, modernization, DTH expansion and introduction of HDTV.

Doordarshan is presently operating 35 satellite channels and has a vast network of 66 Studios and 1415 transmitters providing TV coverage to about 92% population of the country. In addition, Doordarshan is providing free-to-air DTH Service (Ku-band) in the
country. For A & N Islands, which do not receive Ku band signals, DTH service in C- band with a bouquet of 10 channels is in operation. Broadcasting industry is currently witnessing rapid technological developments. World over analog transmitters are being replaced by digital transmitters, latter offering numerous advantages like multi channel transmission from single transmitter, spectrum efficiency and enhanced picture quality.  Analog switch off has already taken place in some countries viz. Japan, USA, Netherland, Sweden & Finland  and many countries have announced analog switch off dates. Many developed countries have introduced HDTV on a large scale.

India has a vast border line. Propaganda from across the borders needs to be checked. This requires a strong network of terrestrial transmitters in border areas. At present, 273 TV transmitters are functioning in the border districts. Many of these transmitters have outlived their life   and need to be replaced on priority.  Certain LPTs in border areas also need to be upgraded to HPTs to strengthen TV coverage. Modernization of DD Network is a continuous process.  Old studio, satellite broadcast and transmitter equipment which have served their useful life need to be replaced to maintain high quality of services.

1. Fully digital DD network in all the three areas viz. satellite transmission, programme production and terrestrial transmission.
2.  Provision of HDTV telecasts to viewers.
3.  Strengthening of DTH service.
4.  Strengthening of TV coverage in strategic border areas of J &K, NE States &
other border areas.
5.  Maintaining high quality  of telecasts both in terms of programme production
and transmission.
6.   Global coverage of Doordarshan channels.
7.  Optimum utilization of Infrastructural facilities.
8. Improving the quality of content on Prasar Bharati Channels

(i) Fully digital Doordarshan network Digital systems provide numerous advantages such as – superior quality, immense flexibility, transmission of multiple channels within the same spectrum, power efficiency & capacity to carry voice, data etc. Worldover Broadcasters have gone digital or, are in the process of going digital. Day by day analog equipment and their spares are winding fast. Today, digitalization is a technological compulsion.  Doordarshan started work on digitalization of its Satellite channels in mid nineties & transmission of all the existing 35 Satellite channels of Doordarshan is presently in digital mode. Doordarshan’s DTH service, “DD Direct +” has also digital  transmission. Digitalization of Studio centers commenced in 10th Plan.   At present, out  of total 66 Studio centres in Doordarshan network, 21 Studio centres are fully digital & 31  Studio centres are partially digital. Doordarshan had also set up four digital transmitters, one each at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in January, 2003 for an experimental service, to gain experience in DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) technology. Digital transmitter at any location will enable relay of about 8 channels (against one channel in case of analog transmitter).

Television broadcasting in analog mode requires significant spectrum which is a scarce resource. Therefore, countries all  over the World are migrating from analog to digital terrestrial broadcasting.   In December 2005, the European Union decided to cease all analog television transmissions by  2012 and switch all terrestrial Television broadcasting to digital. Netherlands completed the transition in December 2006, Sweden in November, 2008 and Finland in 2007.  UK began the analog switch-off in late 2007 is expected to completed by 2012. Norway ceased all analogue television transmissions in December, 2009. Analog switch-off has already taken place in USA and Japan also. In the light of changed scenario all over the world and competition in the market, it is necessary for Doordarshan to further enhance the quality of transmission and provide multi channel coverage through its terrestrial  network to attract its viewers. Moreover, with the countries moving to digital terrestrial transmission, the maintenance of analog transmitters would become very expensive in future.

Doordarshan’s Eleventh Plan Scheme of Digitalization involving an outlay of Rs. 620 Crore was approved by the Government in April, 2010. Major projects under implementation, as part this scheme, are as under
(a) Full digitalization of existing 39 Studios (31 partially  digital & 8 analog Studios)
(b)  Establishment of 40 digital HPTs at existing transmitter locations. Implementation of above projects has  been taken up and all the projects are targeted to be completed by 2013, in phases.  Projects of digitalization of terrestrial transmitters would be continued in 12th Plan.

• Establishment of 40 digital HPTs by 2013.
• To keep provision for 590 digital transmitters in 12th Plan
• Full digitalization of existing 31 partially digital Studios by 2011.
• Full digitalization of existing 8 analog Studios by 2012.
• To keep provision for digitalization of 4 analog Studios in 12th Plan.

(ii) Providing HDTV telecasts to viewers
HDTV refers to video having  resolution five times higher than traditional television systems (Standard-Definition TV) allow. Main features of HDTV are - Crystal clear & noise free picture; more realistic colors; wide screen picture and more viewing realism. Many developed countries like USA, Japan, UK, Canada, Germany, France and Australia etc have gone for HDTV. Doordarshan commissioned an HDTV channel “DD HD” on the eve of Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. Entire coverage of Commonwealth Games was done in HDTV. Projects of setting up of HDTV studios at Delhi and Mumbai;  HDTV post production, field production and preview facilities, HDTV terrestrial transmitters  at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata & Chennai; HD TV Play out facility at Delhi, Multi camera OB Vans at Delhi and Mumbai are under implementation. 
With the increase in   spending power, people are becoming more and more quality conscious. Viewers are able to distinguish between SD and HD quality with advent of bigger size display devices.  All the major DTH service providers are also offering some channels in their bouquet in HD format. Doordarshan has already launched “DD HD” channel in satellite mode.  Adequate content including regional programmes need to be created to sustain this channel and also for further addition, which necessitates setting up of HDTV production facilities at major Studio centres and also field production, post production and preview facilities at local centres.  Doordarshan also plans to set up HDTV terrestrial transmitters at state capitals  to provide HD quality to viewers watching Doordarshan programmes through terrestrial mode. Doordarshan has taken up a number of HDTV projects under 11th Plan. HDTV production and transmission facilities at major DDKs are proposed to be included in 12th Plan.

• Conversion of one Studio each at DDKs Delhi & Mumbai for HDTV production by 2011.
• Procurement of 2 no. HDTV OB Vans for DDKs Delhi & Mumbai by 2011
• Establishment of field production, post production & preview facilities for HDTV at DDKs Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata & Chennai by 2011.
• Establishment of HDTV transmitters at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata & Chennai by 2011.
• To keep provision for HDTV production facilities at major Studio centres in 12th Plan.

(iii)Strengthening of DTH service
Doordarshan started its unique free-to-air DTH service “Doordarshan Direct +” in Dec., 2004 with a bouquet of 33 TV channels.  This service was started primarily for providing TV coverage to the areas, hitherto uncovered by terrestrial transmission. Capacity of DTH platform was subsequently increased for transmission of 59 TV channels in December’ 08 using highly spectrum efficient technique with minimal expenditure. Andaman & Nicobar Islands do not receive “DD Direct +” signals  (Ku-band) as these Islands are outside the footprint of InSAT-4B satellite through  which DTH (Ku-band) transmission is taking place. Especially  for A&N Islands, Doordarshan started DTH service in C-band with a bouquet of 10 channels in Sept., 2009.  Capacity of DD’s DTH platform is now being increased from 59 to 97 channels. Project of upgradation of DTH platform (97 channels) has been approved at a cost of Rs. 75 Crore and its implementation taken up. All these channels will be free. 
Besides Doordarshan, there are, at present, six other DTH service providers namely, Zee Network (Dish TV), Tata & Star (Tata Sky), Reliance (Big TV), Sun (Sun Direct), Airtel (Digital TV) and Videocon  (Videocon d2h). Doordarshan’s DTH signal is free-to-air and no charges are payable by  the viewers. All other DTH services are operating on purely commercial basis as subscription based pay DTH service. Total number of DTH Homes is estimated to about 18 millions, at present. There is a stiff competition among DTH service providers to increase their viewers by offering larger number of channels and value added services. Doordarshan proposes to expand capacity of DTH platform to 200 channels with a suitable PPP model in 12th Plan.

• Upgradation of Doordarshan’s DTH platform to 97 channels by 2012.
• Provision for further upgradation of DTH platform for 200 channels in 12th Plan. Commercial model to be developed in this phase of expansion.
• Distribution of 30,000 DTH sets by 2012

(iv)Strengthening of TV coverage in strategic border areas
India has a vast border with Pakistan  and China. Other bordering countries are Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal & Sri Lanka. Pakistan TV signals are available in 54 almost all parts of Kashmir valley and some parts of Jammu region. Chinese TV signals are received in small parts of NE region mainly in Arunachal Pradesh in rainy seasons. Bangladesh TV signals are available in some  parts of West Bengal,Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam & Mizoram. Therefore,  good quality Doordarshan signal need to be ensured in these areas to check the impact of foreign TV signals. Doordarshan has been assigning priority  to expansion and improvement of TV coverage in Border areas in its expansion  plans. Special packages for expansion and improvement of Doordarshan services in NE and J& K have also been implemented. At present, 273 transmitters of varying power are operating in border areas. For further improvement of TV coverage in J&K, 5 HPTs in J&K have been approved and their implementation taken up. A number of existing transmitters in border districts have served their useful life and require replacement to ensure good quality transmission. In addition, some transmitters need upgradation to strengthen the coverage.  Some new analogue transmitters will also have to be setup in the border areas of NE states, Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, West Bengal etc. to check the  propaganda from across the border.  Analog transmitters in border areas will have to be continued for a longer period as compared to rest of the country as the strata of people in such areas may not like to purchase additional system (STB) required to receive Digital Signals.  This is equally true for the population living across the border.
1. Establishment of 5 HPTs in J&K (one each in Kashmir, Jammu and Leh region and 2 at Rajouri) by 2013. 
2. Provision of upgradation of certain LPTs in border areas to HPTs and replacement of VLPTs by VLPTs/LPTs, which have served their useful life, in 12th Plan. 
3. Provision for new analogue transmitters (HPTs/LPTs) in border areas in 12th Plan.

(v) Maintaining high quality of telecasts
Replacement & modernization is a continuous process and schemes in this regard have been implemented by Doordarshan from time to time. Doordarshan has been keeping itself aware of the latest technological developments in broadcasting and adopting new technologies to the extent possible within the available resources. Modernisation is a key thrust area of 11th Plan. Apart from the schemes of digitalization & HDTV, schemes of replacement & modernization of satellite broadcast equipment and studio & transmitter equipment are included in 11th Plan.

• Upgradation of 10 existing satellite Earth stations by 2012.
• Establishment of 5 new Earth stations by 2012
• Procurement of 9 new DSNGs by 2012
• Replacement of 6 old DSNGs by new ones by 2011
• Replacement of uplink PDAs/IRDs by 2011
• Approval of scheme of replacement, modernization & augmentation of studio & transmitter equipment in early 2011and its implementation, in phases, by 2013

(vi)Global coverage of DD channels
Four DD channels, viz., DD-News, DD-Sports, DD-Bharati and DD-India are presently available in 86 countries. These are transmitted through IS10 satellite. DD-India channel is additionally available in North American countries, viz., USA, Canada, Mexico. It is Doordarshan’s endeavor to continuously provide high quality TV services to International viewers.

Action - To take action as necessary for continuation of global coverage of Doordarshan channels as mentioned above.
(vii) Optimum utilization of Infrastructure
There is acute shortage of staff in DD network. Due to the non availability of adequate
staff, 46 LPTs are presently relaying partial transmission and activities at number of Studios centres are limited. Out of 35 satellite channels, only 15 channels have round the clock transmission. Staff has not been sanctioned for new establishments for the last about 10 years. 200 Doordarshan stations have been operationalized without any staff having been sanctioned for them and 258 additional stations have been operationalized for which only partial staff has been sanctioned. Coupled with this, a large number of sanctioned posts are vacant. Overall, there is staff shortage to the extent of over 50%. Direct recruitment in the feeder cadre of IB(E)S has not taken place for the last about 10 years.

Acute shortage of staff has resulted in under  utilization of infrastructural facilities and maintenance & upkeep of stations and their management is also affected. The issue of staff shortage has to be addressed very soon so that objectives laid down by Doordarshan are realized.

• Vacant posts in all caders to be filled urgently
• Requisite posts for new DD stations/facilities to be sanctioned and staff recruited.

(viii) Improving the quality of content on Prasar Bharati Channels
Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR) have continued to provide information, education and entertainment to the people of this country as Public Service Broadcasters.DD presently operates 35 channels and AIR has 238 stations.  To ensure that Prasar Bharati is able to fulfill its mandate and statutory role, funding is provided for programmes suitable for Public Service Broadcasting.  In the present competitive environment of multiple communication channels DD and AIR must attract and sustain listener ship of the people with good quality educational, social, cultural and entertainment programmes blended with public services messages.  At present DD and AIR Stations are short of Software.  Several DD channels like DD Urdu, DD Bharati, DD India, and Regional Language Satellite Service (RLSS) need constant infusion of fresh content to enhance viewership. There is also a need to package the archival content of DD to telecast it on various channels.  Similarly DD Kashir channel also needs constant support keeping in view the strategic concerns of J&K region. Efforts have been taken to revamp DD Kashir to ensure increased and sustained viewership in the Valleyby Boadcasting new programmes which reflect the cultural ethos of J&K.  The issues of providing fresh content could  be addressed through creation of high quality programmes of relevance to the listening audience. This will be undertaken through In-house production as well as Commissioned Programmes through Plan Schemes of Doordarshan and AIR.  

1. Doordarshan has planned to undertake the following ;
a. Produce 15,067 episodes for various channels in the next three years starting from 2010-11. 
b. Out of this 12,400 episodes will be made In-house and 2,667 episodes will be commissioned through outside Producers. 
c. The total cost of In-House episodes  would be Rs 62.00 cores whereas for Commissioned programmes it would be Rs 80.00 cores.