By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Many TV stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are expected to face serious financial and technical challenges, as the country prepares to kick off a slow, last-minute journey to the land of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT).
“DTT is a complicated process that requires that broadcasters update their technological capacities, purchase modern equipment suitable to digital broadcasting, provide ongoing training to staff or hire highly skilled personnel if they can,” Jean-Albert Longange, technology analyst, told Biztechafrica.
He also said that given the stiff competition that would reign during this era, the country’s TV stations would need to produce good, high quality programmes to attract advertising and increase viewership, and be seen serious and committed to nation-building in the societies they operate.
“Mostly, they must professionalise their services and get rid of amateurism, which has been their main feature all these years,” Longange added.
It is believed that the DRC broadcasting industry, which lacks a formal policy and direction, is one of the most unregulated and chaotic sectors on the continent.
Industry sources told Biztechafrica that one only needs between US$1000 and US$2000 and a few political connections to get a licence within weeks and start broadcasting right away.
Many TV stations in the DRC, out of the 85 licensed to operate, are owned by wealthy politicians and businessmen allied to the regime, while others are the private property of opposition political parties and churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and the so-called churches of revival.
Struggling broadcasters rely on rare advertising, donations and advertorials to survive, while the financially strong get oiled by their wealthy owners.
A document emanating from the ministry of posts, telecoms and ICTs, which Biztechafrica has a copy, shows that nearly 20 broadcasters owe the government a whopping 640 million franc congolais (about US$650 000) in unpaid licence renewal fees and taxes.
Minister Kin-Kiey Mulumba warned these defaulters that they would face the full might of the law if they did not comply ‘within weeks’.
The government has proposed at least 12 digital TV stations alongside six ‘traditional’ ones, sources close to Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC), the public broadcaster, told Biztechafrica.
“I’m afraid it’s going to be tough for the unfortunate ones, and many among them might not live to tell the digital broadcasting tale,” Longange concluded.