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Question: q4 based on the case study explain how satellites have...

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Q4: Based on the case study, explain how satellites have contributed to bringing about change in the global world. Provide specific examples.


Satellite Instructional Television Experiment

The use of modern technologies for development purposes was pioneered by the Indian Government when, in 1975, it launched the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE). The programme, supported by UNESCO, aimed to use satellite technology to assist development by transmitting daily programmes on health, agriculture and education to rural communities.

India’s Department of Atomic Energy negotiated a deal with the US

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which loaned India one of its satellites, Applications Technology Satellite-6 (ATS-6), for a year to make these broadcasts in exchange for sharing the knowledge from the project (Krige, Callahan and Maharaj,2013).

The SITE programmes lasted from 1 August 1975 to 31 July 1976, and the estimated cost to India of the world’s largest techno-social experiment was about $6.6 million. The government chose 2,400 villages, selected from twenty districts of some of the poorest regions of six contiguous provinces – Orissa and Bihar in the east, Madhya Pradesh in central India, Rajasthan in the west and two southern states, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Most of these villages had little existing communication infrastructure (Agrawal,1978).

In each village, a direct-reception system (DRS) television, a 25-inch, black-and-white set, was installed in a public place for community viewing. Signals were beamed from Ahmedabad and Delhi earth stations to ATS-6, which had a capacity of two audio and one video transmission signals. The use of direct reception systems eliminated the need for costly microwave relay towers. In addition, conventional television sets in 2,500 villages and towns received the programmes through terrestrial transmitters.

Members of government institutions, such as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), teamed up with other experts from the areas of health, education, agriculture and development and the Satellite Television Wing of All India Radio, to produce the daily four-hour programming at three base production units located in Delhi, Cuttack and Hyderabad. The science-education programmes for schools were produced by Space Applications Centre’s Ahmedabad and Bombay studios. Several international experts, including Wilbur Schramm, were also involved in theproject.

Programmes were broadcast mornings and evening in four languages – Hindi, Kannada, Oriya and Telugu. A thirty-minute national programme in Hindi (partly live) was broadcast from Delhi for all villages, while the remaining three-and-a-half hours were broadcast in region-specific

languages. More than 80 per cent of the reception systems were functioning at any given time in the villages. The availability of visuals and sound generated much interest among the viewers, with a large numbers watching the first programmes but gradually audience size stabilized to about 100 for the evening broadcast.

Inspired by the dominant paradigm of modernization theories of communication for development (Lerner, 1958; Schramm, 1964; see also Chapter 2, p.42), the project aimed to bring about behavioural changes among the rural communities and help them reject traditional social attitudes, which were seen as antithetical to the goals of modernization, but it also reflected current domestic political concerns. Among the primary objectives was to use television for population control – ‘family planning’ was a major priority for the then government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Modernizing agricultural practices by using high-yielding seeds and pesticides and fertilisers – all part of the ongoing ‘Green Revolution’ – was another key plank of the programme. Attempts to improve school education, contribute to teacher training and improve health and hygiene were other main objectives of SITE. It is, however, ironical that this innovative project was in operation at a time when Indira Gandhi had imposed an Emergency, muzzling the press and arresting opposition leaders.

Of the four hours of programming, one and a half hours were targeted at children aged between five and twelve years of age, to be watched in schools as supplements to the regular school curriculum. The objective was to make learning more interesting through audiovisual teaching tools, hitherto unknown in most villages, and to reduce the drop-out rate, as well as to improve the children’s basic skills and instil in them a sense of hygiene (Agrawal,1978).

Another major objective of the SITE programmes was the development of agriculture, a key sector in a predominantly rural country. The aim was to disseminate relevant information, give demonstrations and provide advice on such matters as improved farming methods,pest

control, crops management and poultry and animal husbandry. The programmes were also supposed to provide information about the district- level government organizations responsible for the supply of seeds, fertilizers and agricultural implements. In addition, programmes also advised on crop marketing and commodity prices, agricultural credit schemes and had regular reports on weather forecasts. The agricultural programming constituted thirty minutes each day, for each linguistic group.

The third priority area was healthcare and birth control. Advice was given on nutrition and hygiene, as well as on pregnancy and postnatal care, a vital topic, given that thousands of women died in childbirth in India every year, especially in rural areas.

The programmes were more varied and imaginatively made than the standard fare on Indian television, and many organizations were involved in their preparation. Some programmes used techniques borrowed from traditional folk theatre to make their message accessible to the rural audience, while children’s programming used puppets.

Despite such worthy objectives, the results were not very encouraging. A major two-volume report by ISRO evaluating the impact of the programmes recorded only ‘modest gains’ in the sphere of education, while there was no evidence that the introduction of television in the classrooms had affected drop-out rates. SITE villages showed only a 2–4 per cent higher adoption of birth control, although a year is not long enough to judge any tangible change in traditional attitudes towards ‘family planning’. Also, given the community viewing patterns where gender mixing was unavoidable, women in the age of 15–24 were discouraged from watching.

There was also little evidence that television viewing had made any significant increase in farmers’ knowledge about agricultural practices or a change in attitude towards crop patterns. Anthropological findings, however, indicated that there were subtle social and cultural changes, based on gender, caste and class in the rural setting (Agrawal, 1977).

The advice on crop patterns, the use of pesticides and high-yield seeds

was mostly of use to rich farmers with the money to buy new seeds and other agricultural implements. In a country where land distribution is highly skewed in favour of rich farmers, such advice was of little consequence to the poor majority, whose condition could hardly be improved without wider structural changes in the social system. In such desperately poor rural communities, where the majority of inhabitants are landless farmers, school enrolment and drop-out rates, and awareness about health and hygiene, depend primarily on economic factors. Even today, in rural India, many children have to work on the farms, rather than attend school, to supplement their families’ meagreincomes.

The government’s view was that television would be a key instrument to disseminate development-oriented information and generate public participation and support for social and economic modernization. However, SITE showed that TV played only a limited role in changing behaviour among the audience and instead resulted in indifference towards the medium as well as the message itself. In the absence of relevant and effective complementary support in the lives of the viewers, innovative communication and the use of satellite technology were merely information inputs, which, in rural India, remained little more than a high-sounding idea. Despite its top-down approach to communication and the dissemination of information, the tendency to privilege rural elites and insensitivity to the needs of the rural poor, SITE did create awareness about social problems and brought the experience of audiovisual media to ruralcommunities.

The experiment came to an end when NASA withdrew its satellite, reflecting the dependence of the South on Northern technology. However, this spurred the Indian government to sanction the development of an indigenous satellite technology, with India becoming one of the first Southern countries to invest heavily in satellite communication. India’s first communication satellite, Indian National Satellite (INSAT-1A), was launched in 1982, providing Doordarshan with transponders for networking. The more advanced INSAT satellites increased the capacity to transmit satellite-based programmes for school children across the

country, though their viewership remained very low.

With the gradual commercialization of television in India since the 1980s development-oriented programming became a low-priority area, even for state-run broadcasters. For private television companies, both domestic and international, driven by advertising demand, the rural poor are not demographically desirable viewers, and health, education and rural development do not make profitable television. By 2017, India had one of the most sophisticated satellite networks in the developing world but it was being used more to promote entertainment than to address the development agenda. Yet, SITE remains one of the most important early examples of using modern technologies for developmentalpurposes.

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