Monday, 12 March 2012

DRC, Africa and the Digital Television era!


Written by Gael Masengi
At the age of digital media, African second largest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo is showing no sign of catching up any time soon with the industry’s fast moving speed.
Terrestrial free-to-air commercial and public alike television operators in several African countries are preparing for what they call ‘digital migration’ as the industry is rapidly shifting from analogue to digital broadcasting, broadcasters are feeling pressured by the process, however money remain a major obstacle for infrastructures development in the impoverished continent. The transition is in accordance with the Geneva 2006 agreement of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which saw several Europeans countries after years of broadcasting on analogue switching to digital. In Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) digital team had also agreed to adopt the second generation of Digital Terrestrial Television known as Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-T2) for terrestrial television use, SADC member countries include Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all ratified; while the rest remain undecided.
A Congolese professional videographer ‘Gael On Media’ spoke to lately, acknowledged it’s either lack of technological knowledge or financial support that is holding back the DRC to advance and hopefully to compete in years to come with other developing countries in the continent but he underlined the lack of willingness from the government to equip at least the state television.
 “I worked as an intern in RTNC [Congolese state TV] we had no teleprompter, the public broadcaster still got no formal high definition cameras many things have to be done over there’ He said.
When asked if the state is making any sort of effort to modernise the out-dated equipment and any possibility the country to take the digital way, since the technology is becoming conventional, he said the DRC is still far from turning that corner and perhaps the government should first consider a joint operation with a developed country to train the staff. The Democratic Republic of Congo is home of hundreds privately owned commercial and evangelical free-to-air television and radio, the transition to such platform will be beneficial to operators and viewers but the country’s economy is making the process almost impossible.
The move to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) still a big challenge as millions of dollars are needed to be injected on the process, the continent economy power house, South Africa is also struggling to complete the switchover. Last year the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) announced a “soft launch” on the platform in April this year but the public broadcaster wants ‘some’ billions of rand (millions of dollars) from the government in order to achieve it. The DTT roll-out will require major upgrades from the broadcasting companies and consumers as set top boxes (STB) or decoders will be needed to decode the new signal which will be digitally transmitted.
At some point the ‘all-digital’ roll-out is seen as “business spoiler” to pay TV giants, namely, Multichoice Africa (owner of DStv) and the French company Canal+ (CanalSat Horizon) which express concern of market sharing with many rivals, the SABC is an example. The corporation plans to take a full advantage of the platform, it’s preparing to invest heavily on contents and creating some new channels.
 

With the already existing DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld) technology offered by DStv Mobile, one thing is for sure, Africa is really moving to the right direction.

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