Ten years since the process of migration from analogue to digital broadcasting was set in motion in 2000 and four years after the Geneva ITU GE06 Agreement, Botswana remains the only country in the region that has not decided which broadcasting system to opt for.
┬áIt has emerged from a brief following the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) session of Ministers responsible for Information and Communications technology (ICT), which held in Lusaka during this past week, November 22-24 2010.
┬áDr Jeff Ramsay, Deputy Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Office of the President and Head of Botswana Government Communications and Information Services (BGCIS), confirmed government’s indecision.
┬á“In the case of Botswana a final decision on whether to adopt DVB-T/T2 or ISBD-T is likely to be made only after the completion of comparative local testing of each of the standards, which is now scheduled to commence at the beginning of December 2010,” said Ramsay.
┬áThat is despite the fact that the Digital Migration Task Force (DMTF) has since indicated that they handed a report to the Minister responsible, in which recommendations were made to the effect that Botswana should opt for the DBV-T.
┬áRegarding the same, Dr Masego Mpotokwane, Chairperson of the DMTF has said, “The task force could only make recommendations, while the final decision rested with the relevant Minister.”
Mpotokwane’s comments were made in an interview with the Sunday Standard, after an incident in which government had arranged a seminar where experts from Japan’s international broadcasting company and Brazil were invited to make presentations on their system, the ISBD-T, at the exclusion of the DMTF even though their report of what was best had already been finalised.
┬áThat, and subsequent travels to Japan by the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi and other senior government officials, sparked doubts on whether government ever cared to digest the technical findings of the DMTF.
As such the authorities may be having a difficult time balancing political expediency and economic feasibility as well as financial prudence generally.
Digital technology in the provision of broadcasting services primarily releases spectrum efficiency and flexibility of technology, allowing programme compression for several programme transmission in digital technology as opposed to only one on a single analogue frequency.
Mention was made of the fact that consultations with inter governmental agencies, specifically decision makers on taxation of imported broadcasting equipment, with the view to lowering import duties and taxes on STB.
When migration is finally achieved, television consumers who already have digital television sets will enjoy high quality services while those with the old analogue sets will need to acquire a Set Top Box (STB), which is a tuner of the digital signal to the analogue television reception.
┬áSADC Member States were advised they should adopt DVB-T2 with MPEG4 compression as the recommended digital terrestrial standard for the Region.
However, those Member States that have already started implementing DVB-T Standard should proceed with its implementation but ultimately migrate to The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has set June 17, 2015 as the agreed international migration deadline while SADC has set 31 December 2013 to accommodate challenges from the exercise.