Batswana dragging feet in digital migration

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

More than a month after the deadline for the digital migration from analogue television, few people have shown any pronounced enthusiasm in entering the new digital TV realm. This comes after Botswana has made progress towards meeting the 2013 SADC and 2015 world deadlines of migrating from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting. However, not much on the ground among the more than a million TV viewers shows the digital migration is an instant hit with local people.

To start with, BTV has explained the requirements for one to get a clearer picture after migrating from analogue to digital.  “The only expense that Batswana will incur as a result of digital migration is purchase of the signal receiving equipment, deputy permanent secretary responsible for information and broadcasting services departments in the Ministry for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo has said.”

Kaboeamodimo went on to add that for digital migration readiness, viewers would be guided on what to buy in terms of compliance, “such as a new integrated TV set or a digital set-top box and a digital ready TV aerial.”

However, a quick look around the city of Gaborone and the surrounding areas will not yield any “digital ready TV aerials” as prescribed by the station managers. Instead, most viewers see this as an unnecessary extra drain on their pockets and would rather be content with “watching what is there,” said one viewer Nontlhantlha Tshabalala.

To add to the woes that the transition to digital migration might encounter is a damning report from a regional body which condemned the choice of equipment that BTV has chosen to use for its migration.

According to a recent media report, “The Southern AfricanDigital Broadcasting Association (SADIBA) has blasted Botswana for its choice of the Japan-Brazil technology for digital migration, saying the technology will be costly for Batswana and warned that it could isolate Botswana in the digital migration effort. This comes after the announcement that the Botswana government has opted to adopt the technology developed by Brazil and Japan over the European platform DVB-T2, which has been adopted by a number of southern African countries including South Africa.”

In order to dispel any myths surrounding this new development the television station has posted fliers on street lights and other convenient places countrywide telling the nation that “Your Old TV will still Work After June 17.”

Responding to concerns from participants at a seminar in Francistown during the migration campaign period Kaboeamodimo said Botswana Television (Btv) was a free to air service, therefore viewers will not be expected to subscribe to access it. He explained that in countries where viewers were expected to pay for television licenses, they did so because of a legislation that required people to subscribe.

As for the resultant e-waste coming from the obsolete TVs the government spokesperson assured the nation that, “Since the digital migration project was national, relevant stakeholders would come up with a policy to ensure safe disposal of the e-waste after the switch-off date because eventually old TV sets would have to be handed in for disposal.”

Another official Itumeleng Batsalelwang from BOCRA said digital migration allowed for more creativity in the motion graphic creation and film making production. “With the digital migration, viewers would enjoy varied line-up of new programming, this also allowed mobility of television from different receiving gadgets and pictures would be clearer.”

 It looks like the digital migration gospel need to be preached a lot more before viewers are taken advantage of by retailers who will persuade them into buying equipment that is not approved by BOCRA. 

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