A note on Digitalisation of television distribution : The users’ perspective

By, Arshad Amanullah, Project Coordinator-TAD

Shruti Ravi, Ex-Project Associate-TAD

& Saumya Saloni Pandey, Ex-Project Associate-TAD

The switchover from analogue to the digital has (re)shaped conditions and contours of access, in a variety of ways and will continue to do so; a comprehensive engagement with these changes demands for a thorough investigation into a host of (directly/indirectly related) actors, institutions, issues, and processes.

The digital mode of television distribution is almost widely available in metro and Tier-2 cities. The fact that efforts are under way to take the digital distribution to the remaining population of India makes the relevance of the theme? for a systematic inquiry more than evident.

The Tracking Access under Digitalisation Project (TAD) recognizes the relevance of the theme and is an attempt to address the need for a systematic study of the same.

The available data, though meager in volume, on digitalisation of television distribution has been generated by/in the regulatory, judiciary and legislative bodies. Citizenry as social actors in the demand side of the television sector, have not been part of the production process of this data- set. Understandably, the available data-set does not reflect concerns and opinions of the citizenry. Hence, there is a need to listen to the citizenry to develop an understanding of how they as users/viewers in their everyday life are engaging with the digital transition in the Metro cities and Tier-2 cities.

The present study will approach the digitalisation debate through the framework of access.[1]   Using ethnography-like techniques of data collection and understanding users, the study under the TAD Project will focus on the demand-side i.e. users/viewers’ perspective and experiences on the transformation in the way of accessing the television content. 

Objectives

The overall objective of the study is to capture everydayness[2] of the digital services from the viewers’ vantage-point by analyzing and interpreting their (viewers’) experiences of access under the digital regime.

At the macro level, the study will enrich the Project as it will try to

  • Evaluate the nature of Access provided by DTH & Digital Cable Licensees
  • Study dynamics of Access to distribution infrastructure at the Demand (Viewers) levels

Thematics in Focus 

The Project Team has identified two broader thematics to which the researchers, while in the field, are expected to pay special attention:

Perception of Digitalisation

 The study will focus on how the users/viewers understand the switchover from the analogue television to the digital one at different levels:

  • Ideational

(what exactly is happening in the name of digitalisation? People tend to use metaphors or cite examples/instances from their memories/ repertoires of governance to make their point.),

  • Procedural

(How does it happen? How many actors & interests the users need to interact/deal with while switching to or after switchover? Which kind of paperwork is required for the same? Which government/private offices they need to visit to ensure their access to the television content?, etc.), and

  • Technological (How the digital, in terms of technology, is different from the analogue?).

The relationship of this switchover (ongoing/post-facto) to the quality of access is an important component of the popular perception of digitalisation. Being a perception that is relative in nature, improvement or deterioration in the quality access will be better assessed in a comparative frame (temporal, sectoral and/or regional).

Coping Mechanisms

We understand coping mechanisms as users/viewers’ response to the advent of new media technologies/platforms. The same (advent of new media technologies/platforms) causes changes in the existing media ecology: changes that are required for an effective functioning of and also caused by these technologies/platforms. We can classify these changes at least in four categories: behavioural, infrastructural, procedural & technological.

Our understanding of coping mechanisms is not limited to the users’ response to the digitalisation. It also includes the users’ response to the new media technologies/ platforms that marked a sort of rupture in the way media content was produced, distributed and consumed in the age that preceded the advent of the digital production and distribution; however, this study will focus only on coping mechanisms of the users under the digital regime. To be more precise, the study will pay special attention to the techniques users/viewers use to deal with the problems arising from and the advantages & space provided by the switchover from the analogue television to the digital. These techniques can also fall at least under one of these categories:

  • Behavioural

(Have they started watching new programmes? How do they compensate for their favourite programmes which are not available under the digital regime?)

  • Infrastructure

 (Which kind of infrastructure users need at their end to receive the television content under the digital regime? How are they different from the infrastructure that was required under the analogue regime?)

  • Procedural

(How many actors & interests the users need to interact/deal with to continue to avail services in general and also in times of disruption of services or while switching to another service provider in particular? Which kind of paperwork is required for the same? Which government/private offices they need to visit to ensure their access to the television content?, etc.), and

  • Technological

(How do users fix/repair problems related to the technological hardware when they don’t get assistance from the service providers or assistance gets delayed to avail continuous quality access to the television content ?).

The Field

 A multi-site qualitative study will be done in two of cities where the process of television distribution is officially now fully digitalised. The study will be localised? in Delhi and Patna as they are fairly representative of the Hindi-language segment of the television market.

Sample and its Rationale

Study Area in Delhi

 Delhi is divided into nine districts with three sub-districts each. Areas of South-East Delhi where fieldwork will be carried out, fall within the Kalkaji & Defence Colony tehsils in the South district. They lie close to the right bank of the river Yamuna, just before the river enters the state of Uttar Pradesh to the south.[3]

The study area that lies between the river Yamuna on the east and the Mathura Road on the west exhibits amazing diversity and richness of religious communities and social groups among its inhabitants. Colonies and settlements such as Jamia Nagar, Batla House, Zakir Nagar, Khizrabad, Shaheen Bagh, Abul Fazal Enclave, Ghaffar Manzil, Okhla Vihar, Johri Farms, Jogabai etc. which occupy a vast geography of the study area, are Muslim-majority localities, however, they are punctuated with pockets of Dalit and Hindu households as well. Nai Basti is a Dalit settlement within Jamia Nagar. Likewise, Bharat Nagar, Ishwar Nagar, New Friends’ Colony, Sukhdev Vihar, Masihgarh, Maharani Bagh, Sarita Vihar, Jasola Vihar, Madanpur Khadar, etc. are Hindu-majority localities. This geography has a large tract of the jhuggi & jhopri clusters spread along the riverbed of Yamuna. Conversely, a good number of the population of the study area lives in kothis, gated colonies, DDA flats and few in multi-storied apartments. Number of households that are migrants from different parts of the country, is increasingly on the rise.

The study area in Patna

Relevance of Patna for this study lies in the fact that it is a capital city within the Hindi television market. Patna will give the study insight into a tier two city’s experience of digitalization. It is also a big city within the Bhojpuri television market, a significant niche television market within the Hindi television market. Locations include Patliputra Colony, Buddha Colony, Boring Road, Kankarbagh, Rajendra Nagar, among others.

Considering the diverse nature of the cable subscription ecology in the city, where many different scenarios of cable connections in different neighbourhoods are factored, the study area is decided according to the different neighbourhoods that correspond to these scenarios.

Universe of Data

The sample size in each city will be 60 households.

For a quantitative survey on the user experiences, 1000 households in each city have been interviewed between January to March 2015. On the basis of following criteria, 60 households out of this pool of 1000 households in each city, will be shortlisted for the intensive household interviews:

  1. Socio-economic category (SEC)

(SEC will be determined on the basis of the total number of assets owned by the chief wage earner of the household & his/her educational qualifications and occupation. SEC has been divided into 5 subcategories being A, B, C, D, E in the descending order).

  1. Current Cable subscribers
  2. Current DTH subscribers, and
  3. Media assets

Unit of Analysis

Households as collective of individuals, not as families, will be the unit of the analysis. Such a definition of unit of analysis is informed by the fact that a sizeable population of both Delhi and Patna is migrant working men and women. A fairly large number of migrants, despite being not related either by blood or law, share living space (rooms/flats) and other resources. Moreover, such a conception of the households does not exclude different types of family from the definition of the household.

It is the usage of the technology that facilitates access to the televisual content, not the content itself, is the focus of the study.

 Techniques of Data Collection

Using the technique of expert interviews and interviews with LCOs within the study area, the PT will try to capture the oral history of evolution of television distribution segment in each city.

However, semi-structured intensive interviews with the households and non-participant observation will be two main techniques that the PT will use to learn and record experiences of the households. It will also collect industry-related artifacts, publicity materials and users’ documents available in the field.

Research Instruments

The research instruments to conduct the fieldwork are informed by insights gained from the expert interviews and literature review.

The instrument has been refined in the light of the learnings from the Pilot Study.

Pilot Study

The pilot has been conducted in Delhi in June & July 2014. It is a study of 5 households. Analysis of the data is underway.

Partner/s

CKS has shared its knowhow with the PT while doing the Pilot study of five households in Delhi. Likewise, at each stage of organization and visualization of evidences gathered in the field, CKS will share its expertise with the PT.

Tentative completion

 It is expected that the study will be completed by the end of May 2015.

Notes & References

[1] See The Project PPT which contains slides on the ‘model of Access’ developed by the Project Team.

[2] Following Henri Lefebvre, we understand “the everyday constitutes the platform upon which the bureaucratic society of controlled consumerism is erected.” Lefebvre, Henri (1987), ‘The Everyday and Everydayness’, Yale French Studies, No. 73, Everyday Life, p 9,Yale University Press. Translated by: Christine Levich.

[3] For a social history of the locality, please see: Gopinath, Ravindran (nd), Pilot Socio-economic survey of urban Okhla, p 5, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Note: This post was last updated on 11 April 2016.

This entry was published on July 24, 2014 at 5:57 pm. It’s filed under Communication Studies, Media Markets, Media Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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