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Doordarshan antennas become history, as India phases out the last set of analogue terrestrial TV transmitters: All you need to know

DD FreeDish DTH, a brainchild of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in December 2004, to expand the reach of languishing Doordarshan, which was still the first choice for economically-deprived households and making it more competitive in the face of challenges faced by the more tech-savvy and technologically superior private players.

31 March 2022 marked an important milestone in the history of India’s broadcasting landscape as the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, phased out the last set of obsolete Analogue Terrestrial TV transmitters, ushering the country into a new era of digital reforms and keeping in sync with the rapid technological advancements.

Starting today, the Analog TV antennas that had for decades, until the arrival of cable networks and dish antennas, defined the Indian television user’s experience, have become history as the Doordarshan weaned itself away from outdated technology and embraced the new-age digital revolution dominating the broadcasting industry.

Shashi Shekhar Vempati, the CEO of Prasar Bharati, on Friday, took to Twitter to inform us about the momentous development. He said more than 1000 obsolete TV transmitters have been phased out, freeing up spectrum and manpower, and in-process saving crores of rupees in expenditure.

“Today also marks the culmination of the biggest broadcast reform by Doordarshan with the phase-out of the last set of obsolete Analog Terrestrial TV transmitters. Since 2018-2019 more than 1000 obsolete TV Txs have been phased out freeing up spectrum and manpower saving crores in expenditure,” Vempati said.

The achievement was in consonance with the announcement made by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in October 2021, setting the deadline of 31 March 2022 for completely doing away with outdated antennas except for 50 of them that are placed at strategic locations. The attainment of the deadline in this regard underscores the central government’s earnestness in fulfilling its promises and its commitment to the rapid modernisation of the country.

Doordarshan FreeDish DTH registers 100 per cent growth in households and more than 100 per cent growth in revenues

Notably, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on 31 March 2022 issued a press note, informing that Doordarshan FreeDish has become the largest DTH platform with a reach of more than 43 Million households—a staggering 100 per cent growth from 22 million households in 2017. In terms of revenue, the growth is more than 100 per cent in the last five years, from 2017 to 2022.

“With improved auction processes leading to the addition of better quality & quantity of channels in various genres, between 2017 and 2022 alone, the Free DTH service of Doordarshan clocked a stellar growth of almost 100% from 22 Million in 2017 to 43 Million in 2022,” the press note said.

DD FreeDish DTH, a pet project of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, witnessed unprecedented growth from the period 2017 to 2022

DD FreeDish DTH, a brainchild of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in December 2004, to expand the reach of languishing Doordarshan, which was still the first choice for economically-deprived households and making it more competitive in the face of challenges faced by the more tech-savvy and technologically superior private players.

As of today, Prasar Bharati’s DTH service DD FreeDish remains the only Free-to-Air (FTA) Direct-To-Home (DTH) Service where the viewer doesn’t have to pay any monthly subscription fee. It only requires a small one-time investment of about Rs. 2000 for purchase of the DD FreeDish set-top box, providing access to a wide range of channels to the viewer.

“DD FreeDish hosts a total of 167 TV channels and 48 Radio channels, including 91 Doordarshan channels (comprising of 51 cobranded educational channels) and 76 private TV channels. With effect from April 1, 2022, DD FreeDish private TV channels bouquet would comprise 8 Hindi general entertainment channels, 15 Hindi Movie channels, 6 Music channels, 22 News channels, 9 Bhojpuri channels, 4 Devotional and 2 foreign channels,” the press note read.

This diversification and renewed focus on reviving Doordarshan gathered momentum after PM Modi came to power in 2014, which reflects in the stunning growth it registered in the last 5 years. By contrast, the Free DTH service of Doordarshan managed to add only 22 million subscribers in the thirteen years from 2004 to 2017, a majority of them being under the Congress-led UPA governments, which had the longstanding habit of making a virtue out of mediocrity and being dismissive towards adopting new technological advancements.

How a series of Congress governments made a virtue out of mediocrity and disregarded the need for rapid technological advancement

The first TV transmitter was set up in India in 1959 in Delhi, when Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the foremost Congress leaders, was the Prime Minister of the country. It took another 13 years for another transmitter to come up, this time in Mumbai, in 1972. The fact that it took over a decade for the second antenna transmitter to come up in India is emblematic of the then Congress governments’ misplaced priorities and its utter lack of regard for revolutions that were taking root across the world.

The setting up of analogue transmitters began in earnest only in the mid-70s, when satellite television came to India for the first time in 1975. However, its growth was hobbled by India was plunged into the Emergency, when the Indira Gandhi-led government in the country imposed sweeping measures, curtailing individual rights and freedoms, suppressing dissent and jailing opposition leaders and dissident voices.

Through the intervening years after the lifting of the Emergency, Indian governments showed little interest and spirit to join the television revolution sweeping across the world. Instead, it focused on expanding its network of analogue transmitters even as the world was preparing itself to herald the dawn of the digital revolution. India registered a moderate growth of its analogue transmitter network under the leadership of various Congress Prime Ministers, including Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and others.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee ushered the country into transformational growth, with PM Modi carrying his legacy forward

However, it was only when BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power, did the Centre shifted its focus on modernising the television and broadcasting industry. Until then, no serious measures were undertaken to improve the quality and reliability of the analogue transmission, let alone investing in research and development for the next big thing in the broadcasting industry.

This, however, changed with the advent of Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the centre, who took the groundbreaking step of modernising Doordarshan. He is also credited for initiating a series of transformational steps that radically transformed India. From the increased emphasis on developing infrastructure to realising India’s dream of being a nuclear state, and pioneering a telecom revolution with the New Telecom Policy, Vajpayee tried to yank India out of its self-content mediocrity that was ossified into the collective psyche of the country with decades of Congress-rule at the centre.

And like his true protege, PM Modi continued his leader’s mission to work towards realising the country’s true potential and providing its citizens, not just rich but even economically underprivileged, with twenty-first-century amenities and fruits of modern technology, at par with the developed world. The rapid digitisation sweeping the country and as illustrated by the phasing out of the analogue transmitters and the record growth of subscribers for the Free DTH service of Doordarshan, is a testament to the Modi government’s focus on modernising government organisations and augmenting their competitiveness, in line with the present-day requirements.

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast

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