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Television in India has been around for just over four decades. For the first 17 years, transmission was restricted to black and white, and sale figures for television sets were minimal. The liberalisation of the Indian economy, however, brought with it many changes, including the entry of a number of global players, both in manufacturing and broadcasting. In a span of just over ten years, the broadcasting industry grew from a single public service provider to a thriving sector with over 300 channels beamed across India. Sales of televisions, though characterised by a low penetration rate, also continued to grow steadily.

By 2005, India's potential as one of the world's largest viewerships was attracting the attention of international media giants. Paradoxically, infrastructure and the prevailing regulatory environment brought into question the abeyant growth of the industry. This was especially so for rural India, typically characterised by low levels of disposable income. Looking at the industry from broadcasting and manufacturing perspectives, this note explores the dynamics, challenges and prospects of Indian television.

India: World's Second Most Populous Nation

Geopolitical Aspects

India is a subcontinent with a landmass of approximately 3.3 million sq km, extending nearly 2,400km from north to south and 1,900km from east to west. The country has a federal setup with 28 states or provinces and seven union territories [see Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2]. Whereas states have elected governments, union territories are administered by the central government through their appointed lieutenant governors. State boundaries are demarcated basically on a linguistic basis and are independent entities for all purposes except defence, foreign affairs, telecommunications and railways, which are controlled by the central government. Railways and telecommunications are well developed and connect all major cities, unifying a geographically and culturally diverse country.

Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, it supports over 15% of the world's population. By July 2005, the Indian population was reported at over one billion and growing at an annual rate of 1.4 %.1 With a population density of 334 people per sq km and based on a family norm of five individuals, there are approximately 200 million households in India. Two-thirds of the population lives in rural India, while the rest resides in the metros, big and small cities. Urban India supports an average literacy rate of over 70%, dropping to 45% in rural areas [see Exhibit 3].

Hindi is the national language while English is the link language between most States. At the state level, the regional language is predominant, with either English or Hindi as the second language in use. South India is an exception, where, besides English, four regional languages collectively form the mainstream for communication.
1 According to the data released by the government of India, the population estimate as of December 2003 was 1028.7 million, [www document] (accessed October 12th 2005).
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