By Lata Jha:Â
I don’t think I’ve ever been bulldozed into doing anything in my life. Except this one time when I came back home after a couple of months in college to be told that our regular satellite provider had to be swapped for the one now prescribed by the government. What compulsion is this, I asked my parents. Nobody has a choice here, they said.
A half-hearted technology transfer cannot do a country good. In sharp contrast to the passionate zeal displayed in pushing through cable digitisation, is the situation regarding the digital switch over to terrestrial TV. Both in the US and in several European countries digital terrestrial now has the majority subscriber base. Two strong reasons for that: The most powerful broadcasting system today available is digital terrestrial. It has a single point of failure, not multiple, as in the case of cable and satellite. And it frees up spectrum for telephony.
The conversion obviously costs money, we needed to replace a network of analogue transmitters (1450 in India) with digital ones (630 needed). And here’s how we decided to make a mess of the transition. First we took a policy decision to retain terrestrial as a monopoly for DD and AIR. Then we took the decision to convert but not to provide the money for the conversion. So that in a situation where a total of 630 transmitters were needed, we sanctioned the money for 60 in the 11th plan, and another 60 in the 12th plan. At the rate we’re going, we’ll be operating in another technological era altogether by the time we provide enough for all 630.
In trying to ape whom we consider the successful and glorious, we’ve forgotten our own roots. For years, we’ve fought against the dominant paradigm of development. Against the fact that we need not look towards the West for inspiration. For the simple reason that their histories, needs and circumstances are not the same as ours. We can, therefore, not adopt the same solutions as them. It’s just not going to work.
We, as a television viewing nation, cannot afford such technology. Not as of now. That is as blunt as it can get. And there is no point in depriving masses of the right to watch television itself just because we can’t seem to get some skewed policies out of our heads and ways. That is just unfair. Maybe, we should consider getting our act together before we set out to conquer the world.