COMMENTARY: Make it a smooth transition

SHARE   |   Sunday, 05 April 2015   |   By Staff Writer

For a long time viewers in Botswana have always complained about the quality of content on the national broadcaster-Btv, hence the influx of free-air-devices that enables them to watch channels from other countries. It is disheartening for Botswana television to recycle old programmes and useless poor quality movies and football matches for teams we can barely recognise. We need more meaningful programming with educational material, sport, business and entertainment. It is instructive that Thari Pheko-Chief Executive of Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) says in digital migration content is king. He says content will be the biggest driver of digital broadcasting; Building broadcasting networks, ensuring availability of receiving equipment, Intensifying Public Education and licensing of service providers is equally important. It is perhaps the biggest incentive that will compel consumers to migrate. As Pheko says there is need to explore avenues of creating more content, e.g. creation of content fund through universal service facility, stimulation of content creation in local communities etc...
We are hopeful that this migration to a new broadcasting platform will present economic opportunites that will benefit the locals by connecting them to the international community. It is only when we reach international standards that we can hope to compete with other economies to attract investors, because of the opportunities brought about by new technologies.
 We are happy to learn that Botswana is on course to reach the June 2015 deadline for digital migration for the benefits therein are in immense, so we are told. Currently Botswana has been using analogue signals, which requires a large amount of bandwidth to transmit the picture and sound information, according to experts. With digital this can be carried easily since it requires much less bandwidth which then results in brighter, sharper picture and much better sound quality.
Digital Broadcasting brings along many benefits over the traditional broadcasting; better quality tv, data services, more efficient spectrum usage, enhanced services like HDTV, mobile & portable TV as well as opportunities for more participation in the broadcasting ecosystem. Therefore, Digital migration presents the best opportunity to transform the hitherto infant terrestrial tv in Botswana and bring it to par with the rest of the world. We hope the assistance we have enjoyed from the Japanese in making the transition possible will delivered the goods. We commend them for lending us their expertise. 
Without doubt Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) is a technical subject and those spearheading the rollout should not tire from the many questions raised by us laymen. They should never at any point assume that they have communicated enough. While some are still in the dark about what  digital migration is, many a consumer are still asking questions over the implications of the switch. They ask; are we going to have to change our tv sets and reset antennae? do we need new decoders? will we be expected to pay a fee to watch tv after the switch?
Collaboration among the policy makers, regulator, service providers and consumers is key to the migration process. The regulator has to provide an enabling environment for all to participate and enjoy the benefits accruing from the migration to digital broadcasting. Digital broadcasting will make it easy to share broadcasting network components. To this end BOCRA has enabled sharing through Infrastructure Sharing Guidelines to facilitate the sharing of resources to enable faster roll out. This is commendable.

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