Africa slow in digital TV migration

December 3, 2014
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Technical Coordinator Kezias Mwale says initially, most governments did not appreciate the complexity of the matter and that it needed early attention for smooth implementation/FILE
Technical Coordinator Kezias Mwale says initially, most governments did not appreciate the complexity of the matter and that it needed early attention for smooth implementation/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 3 – At least half of the countries in Africa may not be able to beat the June 2015 digital television migration deadline.

The Africa Telecommunications Union (ATU) says this is due to numerous challenges facing the transition like public resistance, lack of commitment by governments and resistance from private broadcasting firms.

Technical Coordinator Kezias Mwale says initially, most governments did not appreciate the complexity of the matter and that it needed early attention for smooth implementation.

“I remember when went back to our governments in 2006, because I used to work for the regulator, the government officials told us, ‘so we are supposed to migrate? When is that?” And we said it was June 2015. But we were told to bring issue later because they had other things to do then,” Mwale, who hails from Zambia says.

“Most of the governments thought it would be a week or month affair. But that was not the case. Lack of full understanding of what was at hand for me was the first major problem.”

Mwale was speaking in Nairobi during the two-day East Africa regional digital migration forum which is aimed at checking the milestones made in the region as far digital broadcasting transition is concerned.

READ Timelines finally agreed for digital TV migration

Some of the countries which have openly declared that they might not shift to the digital network by next year are South Africa and Namibia.

ATU is however commissioning a study that will by next year give a clear indication of where the continent is compared to others on the migration.

At the moment, three states in the continent have been able to succeed in the process with a 75 percent cover which include Mauritius, Mauritania and Tanzania.

But what can other countries learn from those which have succeeded in the digital migration?

According to Joseph Kambanga of the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, the country has made it in the process because they first started very early and secondly and most important, invested in heavy campaign that focused on showing the citizens the benefits of the transition.

“This should never be like it’s a government rule. No. It should be a people’s thing. I remember our promos would tell the people that when one migrates they are ready for development. We showed them that they had the choice to grow or be left behind,” he says

“We also assured them that they did not have to throw their old televisions away, which was one of their main fears. And when the public believed in the government, everyone buys the set-top boxes without complaint.”

Kambanga also says there was heavy government commitment that saw it lay out the required infrastructure and ensuring that set top boxes were affordable to all people.

Kenya is expected to kick off its first analogue television switch off on December 31, after industry stakeholders agreed on a schedule for the switch over.

The digital migration will be taken forth in three phases beginning with Nairobi and its environs.

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