It is quite surprising to see the recommendations of the Expert Committee as all across the globe public broadcasters are going for digital terrestrial transmissions to save on spectrum but in India the committee has preferred satellite television which is highly cost intensive and uses more spectrum and scarce transponder space. Some of the points that are worth considering before taking a final decision are given below:-
• Shortage of Satellite Transponders: Apart from the high cost of satellite transponders required for Satellite TV there is a dire shortage of these transponders as India has very strict rules of buying only through ISRO. Our private DTH operators have been demanding transponders to increase their channel capacity but there are none available. It is difficult to understand why satellite is being preferred over terrestrial.
• Use of existing Infrastructure: There are about 1400 low power and high power TV stations with Doordarshan. Even if we start DTT transmission using one analogue frequency in each of these TV stations, we can offer six to eight digital channels in each bringing thousands of TV channels. Keeping two channels of Doordarshan for public service rest can be auctioned to Indian broadcast companies for an yearly licence fee. This will bring in enough revenue to run all Doordarshan channels and also encourage local talent in programming, production and distribution providing massive boost to digitisation and employment.
• Utilisation of existing manpower: There is more than required manpower available with Prasar Bharti that is highly under utilised as compared with private broadcasters. These employees have become highly lethargic and their productivity is very low. It is a shame that inspite of spending lot of money since 2006, we could not provide HD transmissions of Commonwealth Games to our own people. Also we have not been successful in launching DTT or mobile Television inspite of spending crores in trials since 2008. There is no accountability. Running 1400 transmitters will keep them busy once private content is also available.
• Unsuccessful DD Direct+: Prasar Bharti already operates satellite platform for FTA DTH transmissions. Inspite of massive response from all corners of the country in the initial years, we have let this operation die slowly handing over the market to private DTH operators. Not enough revenue is being generated from private channels through auctions too as they are discouraged with very high carriage fee, higher than even the private DTH companies. For the last four years we are announcing to increase the capacity to 200 channels but failed to achieve this as transponders are not available.
• DTT is always better: We have more than 800 satellite channels in India. Many of them are regional and relevant in a small region only. Such channels may like to shift to DTT. Also DTT will bring mobility. This will also bring in advertisements from smaller city/ region based companies who are unable to go to costly satellite channels.
Thus the committee recommendations will completely make Prasar Bharti redundant or a white elephant for the government, misused by corrupt and inefficient staff achieving nothing.