The one year long Satellite instructional television experiment (SITE) which commenced on 1st August 1975 and concluded on 31st July 1976, marked the beginning of a series of innovative and constructive educational television programmes for national development and for educating the Indian masses living in remote rural areas.
The SITE educational programmes were also aimed at making the children sensitive to, and learn, community living and improve their basic concepts and skills in the areas of numeracy, language and Science.
The programmes were directed at creating a positive attitude to formal education and making education interesting, creative, purposive and stimulating. The educational programmes were so designed as to familiarise children with facts and matters normally beyond their observation and experience.
The Satellite for this experiment, ATS-6 was provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of USA and the ground segment was prepared by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) working in collaboration with All India Radio/ Doordarshan.
The educational and developmental programmes were beamed up to the satellite from earth stations set up in Ahmedabad and Delhi and were broadcast towards India using the high power transmitter and the large antenna aboard ATS-6. These programmes were received in about 2400 villages in six different states of India.
One of the purposes of the experiment was to provide a system test of direct broadcast technology in relation to a large developing country.
It also aimed at demonstrating that a developing country like India could fabricate, manufacture and maintain the required earth stations, rebroadcast transmitters and community receiving sets in far off villages with adequate efficiency and reliability.
The experiment was also considered as a learning experience to design, produce and telecast relevant educational and developmental programmes to widely spread areas with different problems and languages using, on a time sharing mode, a single broadcast channel.
One and a half hours of broadcast in the morning was denoted to school children while 2.5 hours in the evening were meant for general audiences in the villages. The evening programmes included half an hour of common programmes in Hindi which originated in Delhi.
The evaluation of the experiment provided a great deal of information and insight into how things worked and what can be done in the areas of technology, management, programme making and programme support to turn this new broadcasting innovation into a powerful aid to education and development for hitherto neglected rural areas.
SITE covered 2330 villages spanning in 20 districts of six states (clusters) namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan.
Instructional TV programmes for adult viewers were telecast in the evening for about two and a half an hour’s which included half-hour national Hindi programmes in Hindi, Kannada, Oriya and Telugu.
a) The study explored:
i) The extent to which a climate for development was created by SITE.
ii) The extent to which SITE accelerated the process of development.
iii) The extent to which the attitudinal and behavioural changes took place as a result of SITE.
b) Results of the experiment were:
1. As a System test of satellite broadcast technology in a country like India, the experiment was singular success. The research and development capability generated during setting up of this experiment was an invaluable spin-off.
2. It was more effective than all other media in attracting the female audience.
3. The continuous feedback through everyday interviews showed that the audience favoured instructional programmes as compared to socio- cultural programmes.
4. A large longitudinal survey showed large gains in information, awareness and knowledge in areas such as health and hygiene, political consciousness, overall modernity, and family planning.
It was also found that the gains were greater for under privileged sections of the rural society such as females and illiterates. The gains increased with the degree of television viewing.
5. In the area of agriculture, large number of innovations triggered by the television programmes. Farmers adopted only those new practices which did not demand additional expense on infrastructure.
6. A survey of children showed positive gains in the area of language development and in the attitude of seeking knowledge and information from sources other than conventional classroom teaching.
They learnt new stories and songs and activities such as making of models and toys became popular in most of the schools.
7. In both attitudinal, as well as, in behavioural information, the overall modernity increased as a result of TV viewing. It was higher among female frequent viewers as compared to male frequent viewers.