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DOORDARSHAN TO TELECAST COMMONWEALTH GAMES IN HIGH DEFINITION TV
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<img style="margin:0px 10px 0px 0px; float:left" src="http://img197.imageshack.us/img197/5505/commonwealth2010logo.png" />THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES

The Commonwealth Games is a multinational, multi-sport event, held every 4 years. Approximately 5,000 athletes participate. There are currently 53 members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held in New Delhi, India between 3 October and 14 October 2010. The opening ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi.


The total budget estimated for hosting the 19th Commonwealth is US$ 1.6 billion (Rs 8,000 Crores). This makes the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever (compared to Manchester 2002 - approx. US$ 420 million, and Melbourne 2006 - approx. US$ 1.1 billion).

HIGH DEF TV

High Definition TV (HDTV) is a digital television broadcasting system with a resolution that is 4 times better than that of a DVD. HDTV offers a wide screen (16:9 ratio) picture and brings the picture resolution of cinema halls onto the screen of a special Plasma/LCD HD television in the viewer's home.

Regular TV sets provide 'Standard Definition' (SD). {For a detailed article on the technical aspects of HDTV, refer to SCaT June 2009 Issue -Ed.} To receive the enhanced resolution of HDTV, not only does the user have to change his TV set to that capable of HDTV, but the entire video chain from the Camera, recording, editing, transmission and even the STB / TV Tuner need to be capable of handling High Definition TV.


HDTV COMPULSORY FOR CWG

Under the Common Wealth Games rules, it is mandatory for the host broadcasters to produce a feed of the Games in HDTV. Since Doordarshan is the host broadcaster, it has to do so.

On 31st July 2009, the Union Cabinet approved an allocation of Rs 165 Crores to Doordarshan to enable the public broadcaster to establish an infrastructure, to provide a High Definition TV telecast of the Common Wealth Games (CWG) to be held in New Delhi next year. The balance Rs 5 Crores is a recurring expenditure for project implementation and satellite transponder bandwidth. The funding will taken from Prasar Bharati's Eleventh Plan Allocation.

All the equipment will have to be imported and the total foreign exchange component involved in respect of the HDTV equipment will be about Rs 1.6 billion.

HUGE PROJECT

Doordarshan's HDTV project is huge and to be implemented in 9 stages, all of which will be completed only in by March 2012. However, uplinking, production and playout will be completed before the Delhi CWG, to facilitate transmission of the Games in HDTV through DTH and cable TV networks.

Doordarshan will generate the Global feed for the CWG in HDTV.

For Indian viewers, DD's HDTV feed will be available via satellite (C band on on DD Direct). The HDTV feed will be uplinked from Delhi. It will also be rebroadcast from Doordarshan's Digital Terrestrial Transmitters in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The existing DTT transmitters are not HDTV compatible, hence new HDTV DTT transmitters will be established by Doordarshan in the 4 metro cities, as part of its HDTV roll out. Complete High Definition studio production, Electronic News Gathering (ENG) and field production and post-production facilities will be established at Doordarshan Kendras in Delhi and Mumbai.


MPEG-2 OR MPEG-4 ?

There is no word on whether MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 digital compression will be used for satellite & terrestrial transmissions of the HDTV feed.

High Definition TV requires atleast 3 to 4 times the bandwidth of Standard definition (SD) TV transmissions. As a result, some form of digital compression during transmission is a practical necessity. MPEG-2 is now in wide spread use. However, MPEG-4 can transmit HDTV pictures in almost half the bandwidth of MPEG-2. On the other hand, MPEG-4 digital STBs, DTT and satellite receivers are almost 4 times more expensive than their MPEG-2 counterparts.

The high resolution of HDTV cannot be supported by existing (SD)tuners, STBs and satellite receivers. Special HDTV STBs and satellite receivers will need to appear in the Indian market for purchase by Indian consumers so that they can receive HDTV broadcast on their LCD/Plasma TV sets.

Reports are that Doordarshan had not yet taken a decision on whether to deploy MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 digital compression for its HDTV transmissions.


2000 CRORE LIVE COVERAGE CONTRACT

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has already shortlisted five broadcasters and their consortium partners, from which the contract for the production of CWG 2010 will be awarded to one, based on financial and technical bidding. They are Tokyo Broadcasting, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), USA's International Sports Broadcasting (ISB) and International Games Broadcast Services (IGBS).

"Bidders must have experience in the production and coverage of international sporting events like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Olympics in the past 18 years," a senior Doordarshan official explained. "Bidders must also have experience in covering sports events of international standards in HDTV," he added

Three of these international broadcasters have tied up with a local partner to meet the eligibility criterion specified in the Expression of Interest (EoI) document.

Tokyo Broadcasting has tied up with Reliance Big Productions, a subsidiary of Reliance Entertainment, while Mumbai-based Nimbus Communications has tied up with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Nimbus Sports Singapore, the international division of Nimbus Communications, has tied up with ISB of USA.

Satellite Information Services of UK (SIS live), also called SIS Outside Broadcast, and IGBS of Switzerland, have applied without any Indian broadcast partners.

"There were 10 companies who had responded to the EoI floated by Prasar Bharati, of which only 5 have now been shortlisted and only one will finally bag the right to produce the feed of Commonwealth Games 2010 for Doordarshan," said Ambika Soni, Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

While the contract-size of this deal is not known, industry estimates suggest that any international production company that covers sporting events like the Olympics or Asian Games for 15 days tend to charge $300-500 million. (Rs 1500 to 2500 Crores)

PROTEST BY DD STAFF

The decision of CEO B.S. Lalli calling for global tenders for outsourcing for live coverage of international sporting events of the Commonwealth Games provoked strong protests from Prasar Bharati employees. Doordarshan dismissed these protests as 'mis-placed' pointing out that outsourcing by the host broadcaster for live coverage of international sporting events was a normal practice since one broadcaster could not be expected to have expertise in covering all events. As an example, during the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese broadcaster had covered only 2 sporting disciplines and all the others were outsourced. Ofcourse, supervisory control will rest with Doordarshan.

Leaders of the National Federation of Akashvani and Doordarshan Employees have threatened that employees of All India and DD would boycott the transmission of coverage of the Commonwealth Game 2010 if the production and coverage is handed over to private parties and not to the DD's professionals.

LONG ROAD AHEAD

HDTV is the latest development in providing an improved home TV viewing experience. Worldwide, HDTV roll out has been driven by sporting events such as the Olympics & World Soccer. The October Commonwealth Games next year provides India an excellent platform to upgrade its TV transmission capabilities to include High Definition Television.

Clearly a lot needs to be done by Doordarshan and there is just bout a year to do it.

Consumers and even cable TV networks need to realise that receiving HDTV not only requires specialised TV sets but also replacement of all existing digital cable TV & DTH STBs. These products need to be imported and deployed into consumers' homes, at attractive prices. To enable the private sector to do this, Doordarshan needs to finalise technical specifications and standards including whether it will use MPEG-2 or MPEG-4. These decisions then need to be communicated to the private sector so that the appropriate equipment is made available well in time. Is Doordarshan listening ?

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Hope this also does not bring forth embarassment
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