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The East African : February 3rd 2014
The EastAfrican 2 MEDIA LIBERALISATION IN UGANDA FEBRUARY 1-7, 2014 Special advertising section The highs and lows of digital migration With the exception of Tanzania, the analogue switch-off has been a moving target across the rest of East Africa MICHAEL WAKABI The EastAfrica the global level, the b≥oadcasting and telecommunication community was also ≥eaching the two decade milestone since the development of unive≥sal digital b≥oadcasting standa≥ds. With the exception of Tan- A zania, the Analogue SwitchO≠ (ASO) has been a moving ta≥get ac≥oss the ≥est of East Af≥ica, but the t≥ansition is finally gaining t≥action. Afte≥ missing the Decembe≥ 2012 deadline, Rwanda will switch ove≥ at the end of July. Kenya which began a phased switch ove≥ last Decembe≥ is expected to complete the t≥ansition at the end of June followed by Uganda on Decembe≥ 31, 2014. P≥ojecting the likely cha≥- acte≥ of b≥oadcasting in the post-analogue e≥a, speake≥s at the 2013 edition of the Multichoice Af≥ica sponso≥ed digital s Uganda ma≥ked 20 yea≥s since the libe≥alisation of its b≥oadcast secto≥, at dialogue painted a pictu≥e of both oppo≥tunity and potential pitfalls. Russell Southwood, the chief executive of the consultancy and online publishing fi≥m, Balancing Act, p≥ojected a landscape of mo≥e f≥ee-to-ai≥ channels but mo≥e f≥agmented audiences. Acco≥ding to him, digital b≥oadcasting will f≥ee spect≥um, opening the way fo≥ mo≥e playe≥s to join in . This will ≥esult in mo≥e choice fo≥ consume≥s. B≥oadcaste≥s a≥e likely to move towa≥ds thematic ≥athe≥ than time-based channels. This will gene≥ate mo≥e competition and inc≥ease in pay TV subsc≥ibe≥s but thei≥ behaviou≥ will be less p≥edictable th≥owing up anothe≥ headache fo≥ adve≥tise≥s. “They [adve≥tise≥s] will have to sp≥ead thei≥ spend on mo≥e channels since that might be the only way of ensu≥ing impact in f≥agmented ma≥ket place,” he says. Besides the explosion in channels, the availability of additional spect≥um will gene≥ate othe≥ benefits. Content develope≥s will have a la≥ge≥ ma≥ket, f≥eed spect≥um will become available fo≥ othe≥ se≥vices such as telecoms and viewe≥s will expe≥ience a bette≥ sound and image quality. One could also see mo≥e local content and delive≥y platfo≥ms as well as inte≥active se≥vices. Unde≥ the analogue b≥oad- casting ≥egime, a typical national television netwo≥k, ≥equi≥es anywhe≥e between seven and nine UHF channels to ≥un the main station and its ≥elays. As a ≥esult, unde≥ the 1961 Stockholm Plan, unde≥ which UHF television f≥equencies we≥e assigned in Region 1, each count≥y was allowed a maximum of fou≥ national netwo≥ks. Digital B≥oadcast b≥ings e∞ciency levels that ≥educe ≥equi≥ed spect≥um to just about half that and gove≥nments can ea≥n additional ≥evenue f≥om the f≥eed spect≥um. Acco≥ding to Ana Aguila≥ a di≥ecto≥ with Deloitte (UK), the United Kingdom has ea≥ned $3.6 billion f≥om f≥eed spect≥um while in Af≥ica, Mozambique ea≥ned $150 million. The UK used some of this money to give a subsidy that included set top boxes, installation cha≥ges and a f≥ee yea≥ of afte≥ca≥e to seven million households. Acco≥ding to Southwood, 61 pe≥ cent of Af≥ican count≥ies that a≥e cu≥≥ently expe≥iencing high spect≥um occupancy ≥ates will see a dec≥ease in occupancy ≥ates when digital mig≥ation is completed. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Bu≥undi among othe≥s fall in this catego≥y. Two pe≥ cent of the count≥ies, Ethiopia among them will see an inc≥ease in occupancy while 37 pe≥ cent will see no change. As the stando≠ between b≥oadcaste≥s and the ≥egulato≥ in Kenya shows howeve≥, East Af≥ican gove≥nments have not add≥essed basic questions su≥- ≥ounding the analogue switch o≠. The question of which comes fi≥st – set-top boxes o≥ the switch-ove≥ — has pitted ≥egulato≥s who want an ea≥ly switch ove≥ against b≥oadcaste≥s who fea≥ loss of audiences and ≥evenue should the switch o≠ lock out audiences. UBC Broadcast equipment at the station headquarters in Kampala. Picture: Morgan Mbabazi Cost could put off viewers Governments have been slow to define standards for settop boxes and the mode for their proliferation. While they waived duty on imports of set-top boxes, in the absence of an enforceable standard for the devices, early adopters risked getting skimmed off by businessmen, Daniel Obam, the chair of Kenya’s Digital Transition Committee, told the dialogue. These fears turned out to be justified in Uganda where Chinese pay TV provider Star Times sold some 130,000 decoders that were not compatible with the DVBT2 standard adopted by East African countries.
January 27th 2014
February 10th 2014