Friday, November 11, 2016

Will All India Radio eventualy scrap shortwave ??

November 11, 2016
By Amrita Nayak Dutta

Laying out an action plan for AIR, an IIT-Bombay report says short wave and medium wave services have few takers and must be scrapped.

AIR should phase out short wave and medium wave services, accessed through the once ubiquitous transistors and radio sets, and focus on FM instead, recommends an IIT-Bombay report while giving a thumbs down to the digital DRM technology that the public broadcaster is pushing.

With most people accessing radio on their mobiles or car stereos, only a small fraction of listeners in urban areas use the difficult-to-buy transistors and radio sets, says the technical audit report on All India Radio's short wave and medium wave services. Barely 10 per cent of people, mostly the elderly, in urban localities listen to short wave or medium wave services, Girish Kumar, professor in IIT-B’s electrical engineering department who headed the team conducting the audit for AIR’s parent body Prasar Bharati, told DNA.

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) receivers, pegged by AIR as a technology replacement for Soviet-era worn-out short and medium wave transmitters, are just too expensive, the report says. Though a DRM transmitter can give higher range than others, installing a larger number of FM transmitters can help cover the entire country.

However, AIR continues to replace short and medium wave transmitters in the country with DRM transmitters even though the technology has few takers in India, sources disclosed.
“During the audit, I visited prominent electronic stores of Mumbai to buy a transistor. However, no transistor, radio set or even a DRM receiver was available there. They are available only in some online sites. But some people in rural areas are still using decade-old radio sets or handheld transistors," Kumar said.

“That is why our report had strongly recommended shutting down short wave and medium wave services for AIR and augment the number of FM towers instead.” This would help in rural areas too where mobile phones with FM services are increasing.

DRM transmitters, Kumar explained, can offer good range but listeners have to buy a receiver that could be as expensive as Rs.15,000. “Why would people buy a DRM receiver to listen to radio when they can do the same on their mobile phones or their cars?” he asked. “Even for the newly installed DRM transmitter in Malad, there are barely any takers, both because of expensive receivers and lack of awareness about it,” he said.

In the 11th Plan, Rs.9.29 billion has been earmarked for AIR to go digital. The new channel, AIR Maitree, that broadcasts programmes to Bangladesh is transmitted through a digital transmitter even though most people in Bangladesh avail FM radio services on their phones and hardly use DRM receivers. There is no feedback gathering mechanism to check if AIR Maitree programmes are being heard in Bangladesh at all, sources admitted.

Audit details:
The audit included field measurements at more than 13,000 locations and above 9,000 people surveys. Most people do not have a good medium wave, short wave radio receivers and the quality of medium wave reception is not as good as FM radio. In fact, most people interviewed are unaware of AIR’s outdated short wave and medium wave services, the report states.

Barring hilly and border areas, medium wave services should be shut in metro and all major cities and the number of FM transmitters should be increased, it says and suggests important programmes on medium wave and short wave services be broadcast via FM radio.

At present, 145 medium wave and 48 short wave transmitters are located in 125 cities of India. Being from the Soviet era, most of the equipment is now worn out. Non-availability of spare parts has added to the problem. As a result, there is poor transmission of signals in most parts of the country.
(Mike Terry/BDXC)