India’s broadcaster Prasar Bharati has ordered the Doordarshan television division, which is also in charge of infrastructure, to switch off analogue TV transmitters by March 2022. Channels have already been switched off in large cities, and in areas where the switch-off is planned, financial aid will be provided for the switchover. However, it has been calculated that by now 98% of the population already use digital channels or DD Free Dish satellite TV. With the switch-off, Prasar Bharati will be able to auction the frequencies that become free, thus increasing the supply of digital channels. The analogue frequencies will remain on air only in strategic areas: Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Sikkim; the Andaman Islands, Nicobar and Lakshadweep. The shutdown will also have an impact on employment because the staff is redundant: 50% of the technicians will be dismissed and only a fraction will be replaced by more qualified elements.
After the great enthusiasm for digital broadcasting in the DRM standard, the Indian government is rethinking the technology to be chosen for the future. Digitization began in 2010, and since then three shortwave and 35 mediumwave systems have been activated; the latter can serve an area of 300-350 km each and two or three are sufficient to cover one of the 29 federal states. However, there are few listeners because the receivers cost too much for the purchasing power of the average Indian: the price is at least 3000 rupees (equal to 42 US$), a huge amount considering that in the country one person out of four lives on 12 US$ per month (below the poverty line). India has been penalized by the fact that it was among the first countries to choose DRM because the industry, concentrating on DAB+ (a technology not considered usable in the country, given the vastness of the areas to be covered) has not realized economies of scale and the price of receivers has remained high. Yet the DRM technology could also be used for the FM band.
Further details in the interesting article by Sreejiraj Eluvangal appeared on ultra news, which reports the statements of Ruxandra Obreja, president of the DRM Consortium and Prakash Javadekar, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The Indian army has opened a community broadcasting station in Anantnag, capital of the district of the same name in the federal state of Jammu and Kashmir. It operates on 90.8 MHz and is aimed at the population, with the intention of sending peace messages to young people to prevent them from joining Islamic independence groups. The region is at the centre of tensions between India (which controls two thirds of it) and Pakistan, but China also occupies a small portion of the territory. After Radio Raabta a second station will be opened in the Shopian district. More details in the ABP Live article.
‘The radio saved my life. By listening to doctors being interviewed on the radio, I discovered that I had Covid-19 symptoms and managed to be treated in time and recover’. This is the opening statement in the Asian Review’s report on the role played by the Indian community radio stations, which are often the only means available for millions of people to access information in the most remote rural communities. During the pandemic the usual programmes speaking about agricultural techniques were substituted by explanations of how to put social distancing into effect and how to recognise Covid-19 symptoms. Together with the government authorities, they also helped to coordinate the distribution of food and medicines. This was an enormous job considering that there are only 276 community radio stations in the whole country. The government’s intention was to see an increase to 4000 broadcasters, which is a number equal to the commercial stations, but the main obstacle to this is the cost of equipment, which is very high for a community (starting from INR ₹ 1.9 million, which is more than US $ 25.000), as explained in detail in this article.