It may seem presumptuous, right now, to talk about the impending digital TV deadline for the four metros. From 30 June the four metro cities will cease to receive analogue television broadcast signals.
Following government directives broadcasters are to relay only encrypted digital signals that will then be accessible to customers with set-top boxes (STBs).
However, meeting this deadline is well-nigh impossible. The DNA newspaper reported on 28 May that this implies installing up to 180,000 STBs on a daily basis in the metros. The CEO of one cable TV company, who obviously opposes the digital deadline, told the newspaper that currently daily installations are fewer than 10,000.
But what does this mean for the quality of our widely reviled television?
One of the expected benefits of digitization is much better transparency on viewership. This is one of the reasons why the legislation involved has been so contentious. Many channels, such as newspapers and magazines, are highly creative with their viewership numbers. Most like to retain that freedom to stay fuzzy.
With digitization data on content consumption is much more concrete. This is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, digital broadcasting can help launch high-quality niche channels that cater to a specific, paying customer base. The lack of Indian equivalents of the UK’s BBC and America’s Public Broadcasting Service, with their formidable non-fiction programming, is frequently lamented.
Friction-free access to new channels can remedy this and chances are that as the medium evolves in the years ahead, the paucity of quality programming may turn out to be a matter of the past.
But, on the other hand, this can end up as a new war for eyeballs. And that will lead to the same approach to content that plagues our printed world: where readers often pay little to nothing to be fed dubious content subsidized by overly powerful advertisers. The amplification of this factor cannot be ruled out as well.
But first things first: will the changeover even take place on time? Expect news of delays on a cable channel near you soon.
Will digitization help improve the quality of programmes that are aired? Tell us at email@example.com