TV choices the poor make

BY The Hoot| IN Books | 01/09/2014
What is monetarily beneficial for broadcasters is less so for viewers who earn very little, some of them reported cutting back on food and savings to meet the increased costs of watching television post digitisation.
A multi-faceted HOOT research study. PIX: A village in Narmada district, Gujarat

Next month marks two years since digitisation was ushered into India’s analog universe, with Delhi as the first territory to implement its analog switch off.  Driven by broadcasters who hoped the transparency ushered in by the new system would begin to get them better subscription revenues, supported by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, its progress has been reported and commented on since then purely from the industry’s point of view. 

But how is digitisation impacting millions of viewers at the bottom of the pyramid? What does it mean for people’s access to public broadcasting? How is it impacting the public broadcaster? 

Two years ago the Media Foundation which runs set out to research the changes television digitization was bringing in the lives of the poorest strata of Indian society. Our work took us to villages in some of the backward districts of the country and slums in the cities where digitisation was gaining hold. It quickly became a multi faceted quest with many partners: anthropology students who camped in selected villages to survey all the households,  media students in universities who mapped what content Doordarshan was putting out, academics, journalists, and social marketing consultants, programme staff and engineers in Doordarshan kendras who provided the first clues about the disappearance of terrestrial television. 

We discovered that what is monetarily beneficial  for broadcasters is less so for viewers who earn very little, some of them reported cutting back on food and savings to meet the increased costs of watching television.  What is industry driven in urban India is however consumer driven in rural India, where DTH has taken hold long before the official switch off date for rural areas has come. 

Several studies have emerged which are now being archived on the Hoot. We investigated the issue in five states including Delhi, through household surveys, Focus group discussions, interviews. We shot footage and made a short film, the Hoot’s fist video. 

We hope all this will  shed some light on the nature, cost, and benefits  of television access in our vast land from the villages of Kalahandi and Kandhamal, to the forests of Bastar and Dantewada, and the cities of Gujarat. 


Research archive:

Over the rest of this week several more studies will be uploaded.


Film: When the dish knocked down the antenna 


Related links: 

Prasar Bharati: Where is the money for programming? 

How public broadcasting is missing its audience 

Prasar Bharati: Programme, demand mismatch

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