Electronic Journalism


The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment or SITE was an experimental satellite communications project launched in India in 1975, designed jointly by NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The project made available informational television programmes to rural India. The main objectives of the experiment were to educate the poor people of India on various issues via satellite broadcasting, and also to help India gain technical experience in the field of satellite communications.

The experiment ran for one year from 1 August 1975 to 31 July 1976, covering more than 2500 villages in six Indian states and territories. The television programmes were produced by All India Radio and broadcast by NASA's ATS-6 satellite stationed above India for the duration of the project. The project was supported by various international agencies such as the UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and ITU. The experiment was successful, as it played a major role in helping develop India's own satellite program, INSAT. The project showed that India could use advanced technology to fulfill the socio-economic needs of the country. SITE was followed by similar experiments in various countries, which showed the important role satellite TV could play in providing education.

The objectives of the project were divided into two parts—general objectives and specific objectives. The general objectives of the project were to:

  • gain experience in the development, testing and management of a satellite-based instructional television system particularly in rural areas and to determine optimal system parameters;
  • demonstrate the potential value of satellite technology in the rapid development of effective mass communications in developing countries;
  • demonstrate the potential value of satellite broadcast TV in the practical instruction of village inhabitants; and
  • stimulate national development in India, with important managerial, economic, technological and social implications.

The primary general objectives from an Indian perspective were to educate the populace about issues related to family planning, agricultural practices and national integration. The secondary objectives were to impart general school and adult education, train teachers, improve other occupational skills and to improve general health and hygiene through the medium of satellite broadcasts. Besides these social objectives, India also wanted to gain experience in all the technical aspects of the system, including broadcast and reception facilities and TV program material.

As the broadcasting time was limited, it was decided that the direct reception receivers would only be installed in 2400 villages in six regions spread across the country. Technical and social criteria were used to select suitable areas to conduct this experiment. A computer program was specially designed at ISRO to help make this selection. As one of the aims of the experiment was to study the potential of TV as a medium of development, the villages were chosen specifically for their backwardness. According to the 1971 census of India, the states having the most number of backward districts in the country were Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka. Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal were eventually left out, as they were slated to get terrestrial television by the time SITE would end. SITE was launched in twenty districts spread across the other six states. Each of the states thus selected was called a "cluster". In each cluster, 3–4 districts, each containing around 1000 villages, were identified. Finally, around 400 villages were chosen in each cluster. Close to 80% villages selected for SITE did not have electricity in the buildings where the SITE TV sets would be installed. A special project called Operation Electricity was launched to urgently electrify the villages before the start of SITE. 150 villages would have television sets running on solar cells and batteries. These sets were specially designed by Indian engineers with help from NASA.

Clusters selected for SITE



Maintenance centers

Andhra Pradesh











Gulbarga, Bagalkot













Darbhanga, Samastipur

Madhya Pradesh


Raipur, Mahasamund

Bilaspur*[disambiguation needed]

Bilaspur[disambiguation needed]







Dhenkanal, Angul

Baudh Khandmals




Jaipur, Chomu



Sawai Madhopur


* These districts are now located in the state of Chhattisgarh.


All India Radio had the main responsibility for programme generation and the programmes were made in consultation with the government. Special committees on education, agriculture, health and family planning identified their own programme priorities and conveyed it to AIR.

Two types of programmes were prepared for broadcasting: educational television (ETV) and instructional television (ITV). ETV programmes were meant for school children and focussed on interesting and creative educational programmes. These programmes were broadcast for 1.5 hours during school hours. During holidays, this time was used to broadcast Teacher Training Programmes designed to train almost 100,000 primary school teachers during the duration of the SITE. The ITV programmes were meant for adult audiences, mainly to those who were illiterate. They were broadcast for 2.5 hours during the evenings. The programmes covered health, hygiene, family planning, nutrition, improved practices in agriculture and events of national importance. Thus, the programmes were beamed for four hours daily in two transmissions. The targeted audience was categorised into four linguistic groups—Hindi, Oriya, Telugu and Kannada—and programmes were produced according to the language spoken in the cluster.

Due to linguistic and cultural differences, it was agreed that all core programmes would be cluster-specific, and would be in the primary language of the region. A brief commentary giving the gist of the programme would be available on the second audio channel, to keep up the interest of the audience in other language regions. All clusters would also receive 30 minutes of common programmes, including news, which would be broadcast only in Hindi.

An example of a schedule for evening transmission: schedule for 1 November – 31 March






Bihar/Madhya Pradesh/Rajasthan

Common Programme




Andhra Pradesh/Karnataka


Agriculture (MP)

News (all clusters)




Agriculture (AP)






Cultural (Urdu)




Cultural (Karnataka)


General Education/Information (Film)


General Education Community Matters (Karnataka)


Short Film


The social research and evaluation of SITE was done by ISRO's special SITE Research and Evaluation Cell (REC). The REC consisted of around 100 persons who were located in each of the SITE clusters, at the SITE studio in Bombay, and at the headquarters of the REC in Ahmedabad. The research design was finalized by the SITE Social Science Research Co-ordination Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. M. S. Gore, Director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Bombay. Impact on primary school children was studied under a joint project involving ISRO and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). The overall evaluation design was divided into three stages. The first stage, the formative or input research, was a detailed study of the potential audience. The second stage, process evaluation, was the evaluation carried out during the life-time of SITE. This evaluation provided information about the reaction of the villagers to different programmes. The third stage, the summative evaluation, involved a number of different studies to measure the impact of SITE. These included the Impact Survey (Adults) to measure the impact on adults, SITE Impact Survey Children (SIS-C) to measure the impact on school children, and the qualitative anthropology study to measure, at a macro-level, the change brought by TV in rural society.

Besides the social evaluation, a technical evaluation was also carried out to help India develop future systems. All major sub-systems of the earth station were tested and evaluated before SITE was launched. This was done firstly using a spacecraft simulator from NASA, then using the Indian Ocean INTELSAT satellite and finally using the ATS-6 satellite. All the components of the Direct Reception System were also thoroughly tested. The TV set was tested by the British Aircraft Corporation. The 3-meter antenna was tested thoroughly before deciding on the final design. Data on failure rates was collected and analysis of the first 1800 failures was carried out to help design future DRS systems.


As decided in the original agreement, the SITE program ended in July, 1976 and NASA shifted its ATS satellite away from India, despite demands from Indian villagers, journalists and others such as noted writer Arthur C. Clarke (who was presented with a SITE television set in Sri Lanka) for NASA to continue the experiment. The SITE transmissions had a very significant impact in the Indian villages. For the entire year, thousands of villagers gathered around the TV set and watched the shows. Studies were conducted on the social impact of the experiment and on viewership trends. It was found that general interest and viewership were highest in the first few months of the program (200 to 600 people per TV set) and then declined gradually (60 to 80 people per TV set). This decline was due to several factors, including faults developing in the television equipment, failure in electricity supply, and hardware defects, as also the villagers' pre-occupation with domestic or agricultural work. Impact on the rural population was highest in the fields of agriculture and family planning. Nearly 52% of viewers reported themselves amenable to applying the new knowledge gained by them.

Similar experiments were conducted in the Appalachian region, Rocky Mountains, Alaska, Canada, China and Latin America in the mid-seventies and early eighties. These experiments demonstrated that satellite TV could play a very important role in providing education.

Last modified: Thursday, 29 March 2012, 11:29 AM