Radio broadcasting through cables may not be far away
USING satellite cable network for radio broadcasting is the novel solution an Indian engineer has struck upon to promote the popular electronic medium to empower the rural masses.
Arun Mehta, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-trained electrical engineer who heads the Society for Telecom Empowerment, is working on plans that could offer people relevant information about local issues through the radio.
Technology exists, but official restrictions block the setting up of community radio stations that will offer relevant content to local communities, says Mr Mehta. To cope with this, he suggests sending out radio broadcasts via satellite cable networks, without violating any laws and at the same time getting local radio across to citizens.
``Depending upon the quality of satellite TV cable that is being used, it leaks power. The worse the quality of the cable, the more power it leaks. So radio is much easier to receive from cables,’’ says Mr Mehta. Radio requires much less signal strength. So anyone with a radio receiver within 30 metres of the satellite cable would be able to receive broadcasts on his radio. Says Mehta: ``This way, one doesn't have to fight against colonial laws dating back to ’85 that block the citizen from starting a radio station without paying huge licence fees. You can start your own station. You don't have to ask anyone for permission.’’
Mr Mehta recently held discussions with non-profit organisations in Mumbai in this regard.
``Cable is a very important medium for the Indian environment. There are about 30 million Indian households with cable TV connections,’’ the engineer says who, after stints with Siemens in Germany and the US, did a doctorate on esoteric subjects like crane control. Later, he headed Amnesty International's India branch. ``It's a lack of technological courage to try out solutions like this. It's just that we don't have the approach of using technology to solve our problems in our own way. In electronics, we like to ape the west in our R&D. That's a great pity,’’ he said.
Mr Mehta says that if he persuades a cable-TV operator to carry a radio station, he could do it for almost nothing. Each satellite TV channel can carry several audio channels and in many languages. All these can be treated as independent radio channels, he says. Any willing cable satellite operator would be able to feed radio programmes via FM into the cable. Mr Mehta believes the current round of ``opening up’’ the airwaves to the private sector at a phenomenally-high licence fee would only commercialise radio broadcasting in the country, rat-her than making it relevant to the ``needs of millions.’’ Last month, there were 360 applications for 108 FM radio-station licences offered by the government to the private sector, covering 40 cities by 103 companies. — IANS
Source : The Economic Times. April 17, 2000