Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which owes Rs. 13,641 crore (Rs 136.41 billion) to the government, may save Rs. 635 crore (Rs 6.35 billion) annually just by switching over completely from terrestrial to satellite transmission.
Incidentally, moving from terrestrial to satellite will not only meet all the requirements of the public broadcast service but also improve the overall customer experience of TV households on terrestrial and analogue cable, according to the observation of the Group on Technology of Prasar Bharati committee.
As per its observation, the switchover to satellite would be more cost effective and allow Prasar Bharati to achieve an annual saving of Rs. 635 crore (Rs 6.35 billion) of operating expenses towards overheads, etc. and an additional notional saving of Rs. 1,294 crore (Rs 12.94 billion) related to the planned capital expenditure on upgrading existing terrestrial infrastructure.
Additionally, transitioning would result in freeing up of national assets such as spectrum in bands I, III, IV and V, and real estate.
Doordarshan (DD) is one of the largest television broadcasters in the country with 33 channels, 67 studio centres (17 major and 50 other) and more than 1,400 transmitters. The bouquet of channels serves multiple audiences through its portfolio of national as well as regional channels and spans categories as diverse as general entertainment, sports, news, public service broadcast, art, music, agriculture, Indian diaspora, health and heritage.
Under DD, the pubcaster runs five pan-India channels, one international channel, 11 regional channels, 15 state networks, and one HD channel. On satellite transmission, all 33 channels are available on private cable and satellite companies and DTH companies or through Free Dish (DD Direct+), the DTH service of Prasar Bharati. This set-up allows DD to achieve national coverage.
However, with its terrestrial set-up of 1,415 transmitters, DD transmits only DD1 and DD News, depending on the location. Approximately, 57 per cent of these transmitters are located in the tribal and border areas. The terrestrial set-up allows DD to achieve 82 per cent geographical coverage and 92 per cent population coverage.
Incidentally, DD’s cost of distribution is heavily skewed towards terrestrial, though it caters to only 8 per cent of the unique population.
As per the report, if DD were to subsidise the cost of DD Direct box to Rs. 500, i.e. in line with the cost of terrestrial antenna, then the total cost of transition would translate into an investment of Rs. 360 crore (Rs 3.60 billion), which would be lower than the planned upgrade cost of the terrestrial infrastructure.
“It is essential for Prasar Bharati to take the path towards viability by being self-sufficient. It will have to find the tricky balance between its public service broadcaster mandate and financial autonomy,” the report stated.