The digital migration debacle! Shall we beat the June deadline?

Digital Migration Debacle_TV

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Just recently I woke up to the Techjaja News with one headline reading that as many as 70% of Uganda’s media houses were digital ready,  something that I thought was a big plus and great milestone for the Uganda Communications commission, since it was tasked to over see the digital migration process. Indeed, this was a step in the right direction given the global switch over deadline is just around the corner.

The following day saw me waking up to a totally opposite  headline reading that the company assigned with the distribution of the digital signal confessed that it won’t deliver on time. The company in question is Signet, the soon to be spinoff affiliate to the National broadcaster UBC that was setup after private broadcasters expressed their concerns about UBC being awarded the sole distributor of the digital signal. All this was revealed after the said company appeared before the parliamentary ICT committee and all hell broke loose when it was unearthed that they couldn’t deliver on time and details emerged that the company was operating illegally and actually didn’t have an operating license. The blame was put on both the regulator UCC and the National Broadcaster as both being on different sides of the coin. A clear blow to the digital migration process which is a few months away from the pending deadline.

“after all this long wait, why are we still lagging behind”

The global deadline for the digital switch over is 15th June and the East African countries Uganda inclusive had decided on 31st December 2013 which didn’t come into fruition and it only remains Rwanda and its adjacent neighbor Tanzania that have beat the deadline since they’ve switched to digital. The legal woes in neighboring Kenya have somewhat stalled the process that recently saw the four major TV stations were closed by the Communications Commission of Kenya. Back in Uganda, it’s only the greater Kampala area and some parts of Jinja and Masaka that are served according to UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi in a recent revelation to press. Another indication that the country is way behind the looming June deadline until all these hindrances are sorted out. The question still sticks that after all this long wait, why are we still lagging behind as we continue to watch our neighbors progress given we were among the first countries in the great lakes region to lay a framework to the digital switchover?

“Private players are cautious why the engorgement hasn’t involved them”

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The digital migration process has come a long way from directives that required all media houses to air 70% of local content during prime-time, setting DVB-T2 as the set standard by terrestrial broadcasters all of which were implemented.  The number of pay TV players has increased from the DSTV and Startimes duopoly to as many as GoTV, Zuku TV, Azam TV, StarSat and recently TVNXT & Kampala Siti TV bundled their services to form Simba TV and many more that keep cropping up everyday. However all these positive signs have been met with delays on the regulatory side. Private players are cautious why the engorgement hasn’t involved them maximally in the whole process since some already have infrastructure installed in uncovered areas and it would make sense if the government involved them to cut costs as a form of a public-private partnership.

10 ucc approved set top box vendors

Still there are some inconsistencies in the digital migration process that we can’t do away with. So far, many respondents have complained about the high charge for set-top boxes and why they’re charged for free-to-air channels while some are unaware about the entire digital migration process.

I am not throwing jabs at UCC but the digital sensitization is far from being crowned effective since the masses complained about unawareness of the process. Despite the fact that UCC recently released a list of the certified set-top box vendors, I believe the sensitization should start from the grassroots to the  upper echelons of society has seen the process directed to the latter and the middle class (If at all they exist). This has marred the migration process  and after some of the cited issues have been addressed by all the stakeholders, the digital migration process hangs in balance.


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