Friday, January 27th, 2023 11:02:06

TV odyssey in India

Updated: July 10, 2017 5:17 pm

Doordarshan had a modest beginning as an experimental telecast starting in Delhi on 15 September 1959, with a small transmitter and a makeshift studio. Regular daily transmission started in 1965 as a part of All India Radio. Doordarshan began a five-minute news bulletin in the same year. Pratima Puri was the first newsreader. Salma Sultan joined Doordarshan in 1967, and later became a news anchor. The television service was extended to Bombay (now Mumbai) and Amritsar in 1972. Initially programmes were broadcast twice a week for an hour a day on themes like community health, traffic, road sense citizens’ duties and rights.

In 1961 these broadcasts were expanded to include a School Educational Television (STV) project. The first major expansion of television in India began in 1972, when a second television station was opened in Bombay. This was followed by stations in Srinagar and Amritsar in 1973, and in Calcutta, Madras and Lucknow in 1975.

For the first 17 years, television broadcast spread haltingly and transmission was in black and white. By 1976, the network consisted of eight television stations covering a population of 45 million spread over 75,000 square kilometers. Faced with the difficulty of administering such an extensive television system as a part of All India Radio, the government constituted Doordarshan, the national television network, as a separate Department under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

There were three ignition points that triggered the phenomenal growth of television in India from mid 1970s. The first was the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) which was conducted between August 1975 and July 1976. It used a satellite to broadcast educational programmes to villages across six states. The objective was to use television for development, though entertainment programmes were also included. It actually brought television closer to masses. Then came the INSAT-1A, the first of the country’s domestic communications satellites which became operational in 1982 and made possible the networking of all regional stations of Doordarshan. For the first time Doordarshan could start what was called “National Programme” which was fed from Delhi to all other stations. In November 1982, the country hosted the Asian Games and the government introduced color broadcasts for the coverage of the games.

The 80’s was the era of Doordarshan with soaps like Hum Log (1984), Buniyaad (1986-87), and Millions glued to Doordarshan for mythological dramas like Ramayana (1987-88) and Mahabharata (1988-89) too. Now more than 90 percent of the Indian population receives Doordarshan (DDl) programmes through a network of nearly 1400 terrestrial transmitters. The third significant booster came in early nineties with the onset of satellite TV by foreign programmers like CNN followed by Star TV and a little later by some domestic channels like Zee TV and Sun TV into Indian homes. As the government gradually relaxed restrictions, Television in India grew and from the mid 1990’s, Cable TV brought about a home entertainment revolution.


There are 48 pay broadcasters, an estimated 60,000 cable operators, 6000 Multi System Operators (MSOs), six pay DTH operators, in addition to the public service broadcaster- Doordarshan, providing a free-to- air a DTH service. Of the 869 registered TV channels with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting at the close of financial year 2015-16, 205 are Standard Definition (SD) pay TV channels (including 5 advertisements – free pay channels) and 58 are High Definition (HD) Pay TV channels.


India’s television industry grew from Rs 4,75,003 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 5,42,003 Crores in 2015-16, thereby registering a growth of around 14.10%. Subscription revenues account for a major share of the overall industry revenue. Subscription revenues rose from Rs. 3,20,003 Crores in 2014-15 to Rs. 3,61,003 crore in 2015-16. On a similar note, advertisement revenues grew from Rs.1,55,003 Crores in 2014-15 to Rs. 1,81,003 Crores in 2015-16. The last decade witnessed significant changes in the dynamics of the Cable & Satellite (C&S) TV market. The most significant development has been the digitization of the cable TV sector in India.


India is the second largest subscription television market in the Asia Pacific Region in terms of number of subscribers. India will be amongst few countries to register a double digit growth up to 2020 in terms of television advertising. Though at a saturation level with expected average annual decline in subscription, cable television will continue to dominate the market over satellite television up to 2020. Also, digitization has resulted in tremendous growth in the number of television channels which has now crossed 800. Television penetration in India is currently at 61% which signifies scope for tremendous growth and expansion.

By Uday India Bureau

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