Ghana’s effort to migrate from the analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) has been delayed by almost 13 months.
The delay is as a result of a number of challenges including the lack of appropriate regulatory framework; the inability of the authorities to define clear roles to be played by the public broadcaster on one hand and the private broadcasters on the other, and whether set-up receiver boxes for catching the digital signals should be sold or distributed freely.
The situation is confirmed by a report from the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) which states that “43 countries look unlikely to meet the ITU’s 2015 deadline.
These countries are Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, DRC and Egypt.
Others include Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali and Mauritania. The rest are Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
But the Manager of Engineering of the National Communications Authority (NCA), Mr Edmund Yirenkyi-Finako, who admitted some challenges facing the process at a seminar in Accra, however, gave the assurance that work on the various challenges would be expedited to enable the country meet the 2014 deadline set by the government to migrate.
The seminar which was organised by GOtv Ghana Limited, an affiliate of Multichoice Ghana, in partnership with the NCA on the theme “Digital Dialogue” served as a platform for participants to dialogue on digital migration; what migration will mean to Ghana; the benefits of digital migration and how Ghana can transition smoothly.
It was attended by officials of the NCA, Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA); members of the network of Communications Reporters (NCR); the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ) as well as experts from South Africa and Britain.
Ghana signed the Geneva 2006 Agreement, establishing the Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Plan at the Regional Radio communications Conference.
The Agreement set June 17, 2015 as the deadline for the cessation of international protection for analogue broadcasting transmissions in the said bands.
In a bid to ensure Ghana’s conformance to the Geneva Agreement, the former Minister of Communications, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, who is also the member of Parliament for Tamale Central of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), inaugurated a committee dubbed National Digital Broadcasting Migration Technical Committee to among others make policy recommendations to the government to enable Ghana achieve a cost effective and timely migration from analogue to digital broadcasting.
It is a fact that the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting will have an impact on the country, considering the pervasiveness of television access and the reliance of the populace on TV for information dissemination, education and entertainment.
Compared with terrestrial analogue television, DTT offers an improved spectrum efficiency which can be used to provide a variety of new service that include mobility, interactivity, high-definition TV, enhanced video and audio quality as well as increased programme choice.
The key benefit of digital broadcast technologies is that they use scarce national radio frequency spectrum far more efficiently than analogue technologies.
This means that existing broadcasting services can be provided using less of the radio frequency spectrum they currently occupy.
The digital dividend which would be realised can be utilised for dedicated delivery of government information and services, education, health among others.
There are fears about how to raise the quantum of money required financing with the processes.
Rough estimates for the migration is put at about US$200 million and although it is far below the 200 million Pounds Sterling used by Britain, it is not clear how that amount will be raised in the face of other pressing national projects such as electricity and water.
Status of Digital Migration in Africa
A survey from ATU Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit held in Ethiopia a sometime time back stated that 35 out of 54 African countries are said to have announced their timetables.
Four countries; Cote d’ Ivoire, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan have been affected by civil disturbances while seven others including Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal and Zambia have developed policy papers or set up task force or committees to consider the process.
Six other countries Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CRA), Guinea and South Africa are now on a pilot stage.. However, of the six, only South Africa and Angola, according to the report, look likely to lead to public transition process. Only Mauritius have fully launched into the transition to digital terrestrial television.
In their recommendation, the report called for more independent signal carriers, and extended national coverage and greater pressures in high occupancy countries
It also noted that for smaller, poorer African countries (like Liberia and Sierra Leone), the cost of building a terrestrial digital transmission network with any significant reach would be very substantial. Therefore, satellite coverage may provide a cheaper short to medium term alternative
The report noted that the decoder constitute a significant barrier; hence the need for some subsidy schemes to be put in place.
It said many countries have opportunity to open up their TV industry as others have done with the telecoms.
Story by Charles Benoni Okine/Graphic Business
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