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Understanding Digital TV

Updated on April 16, 2013
A discarded analogue TV. Is it the right time for African Countries to go digital?
A discarded analogue TV. Is it the right time for African Countries to go digital? | Source

How The West Screwed Africans Into Signing a Digital TV Migration They Did Not Need

On January 1 2013, I expected to wake up to the death of my analog TV. God or the Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) must have been gracious for even after shaking it up for a few times and staring at it to see whether it would go up in smoke, the thing was as operational just as it was way back in the 90’s.

Here is what would have happened if the CCK and not God or Cofek had had their way in the matter of Nairobi switching from analog to digital tv migration. Many TV content consumers would have been left without their primary source of entertainment.

Nairobi was expected to pilot-test the switch from analog to digital television migration in Kenya. The consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) put up a spirited battle, they went to court seeking the court to extend the deadline for migration into the digital transmission platform, arguing that the sudden switch would deny consumers a chance to watch the presidential campaign, debates and polling and the inauguration of a new president in Kenya.

The court ruled in favor of COFEK, and the switch to digital TV migration was said to have been pushed till after the March 4 2013 IEBC presidential elections. That is why after this date came and went, I am particularly keen to observe whether my old TV set is still receiving signals through its ancient makeshift antennae. And like a faithful wife, who everyone is set to set apart, the old box keeps to life every time I flick the switch.

I also understand we are about to be separated and I am spending as much time with her as possible.

Yes, I am resigned that I will be cut off from receiving television transmission. The cost of living is way above what would allow me to buy a digital TV set-top box. Yet, at the depth of this resignation lies unanswered questions, suspicions and a simmering rage that I hope will be kept bottled up for as long as possible.

I have a strong conviction that the Western countries screwed Africans into signing a digital migration that they did not need. Let me take you back in history, to where the unanimous and unpopular decision to switch from analog to digital TV transmission was born and bred.

Signing of The ITU Digital Migration Deal

The deal that handed us the deal that we do not need was signed in March 2006 in Geneva by 101 countries drawn from Africa Europe and the Middle-east; During that 2006 International telecommunication Union’s (ITU) regional radio communication conference, it was decided that the member countries of the ITU would transition from the analogue TV transmission to Digital TV transmission by June 15 2015. The consequences of failing to keep with this deadline would be failure by the ITU to intervene in case a country’s TV broadcast airwaves are swamped by another country.

Is it Imperative for African Countries to Migrate to the Digital TV Broadcast Platform?

The question which the African leaders assented to the deal never asked themselves is, “Does Africa really need to migrate to the digital tv platform?”

This is a continent that does not yet have enough local content to fill their airwaves, it is a continent where majority of the population do not even own TV sets.

To understand the hypocrisy of it all, we must understand why the Western Countries proposed a switch to the digital tv platform at the Geneva convention. The primary reason behind this switch was to free airwaves for more transmission. But for a country that does not have enough media investors or consumers, was this necessary to me?

The migration to the digital Tv platform might be a long-term necessity for most third-world countries, but as for now, we need to face the reality, we do not need the migration and failing to meet the 2015 switchover deadline will not have any dire ramifications on us. It is true that the ITU threatened to stop protecting analogue airwaves of countries that wouldn’t have migrated to the digital platform by that time. But let us face the reality, what is the possibility that a neighboring African country will hijack our airwaves and use them to drive missiles to wherever. Museveni is more worried with the Pokot stealing his cattle than spillover airwaves being used for unintended purposes by Kenyans. If anything the communities living in the border of different countries view the spillover airwaves as a blessing, they are able to enjoy ‘foreign’ content at no extra cost to them or to their government!

The other hypocrisy with the digital TV transition and migration lies in the media campaign that promise consumers improved high quality content after the migration is complete. The set-top boxes that most African media consumers will acquire to enhance their old analogue TV for digital signal reception does not and will never convert their television boxes into digital gadgets and thus will not offer them the full basket of the digital migration fruits.

The set-top boxes are meant to convert the transmitted digital signal back into analogue so that it can conform to your television set standards! In real sense therefore, you will have incurred an extra cost to receive the same, same analogue signal that you were initially getting!

Do you think the signing of the digital migration agreement had the African Countries best interests at heart?

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