Ivory Coast lags on digital broadcasting

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast is ‘badly’ lagging behind in terms of digital broadcasting, compared to many of its West African counterparts.

Ibrahim Sy Savané, the president of Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle (HACA), the country’s broadcasting regulator, admitted in Parliament that his country was lagging behind and needed to speed up the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.

“We are hoping that the country will have the financial and human resources to catch up with the delays and lost time, and therefore meet the deadline of 17 June 2015,” he told members of the National Assembly.

The cost of digital migration in this West African nation of 22 million people is set to cost a whopping US$108.7 million, according to a report released last year by a group of experts commissioned by the government to look into the feasibility of the project.

But the process is yet to kick off, and the appointment on 6 June of a national committee in charge of overseeing the digital migration process is yet to begin operating.

Ivory Coast’s broadcasting space is tightly closed and the country only has two TV channels, RTI1 and RTI2, all strictly controlled and manipulated by the government. These channels interrupt their services around 2am, go to sleep and resume  broadcasting around 6am.

As a result of this TV content ‘fiasco’, many ‘pirate’ TV stations have been mushrooming around the country. One such example is Television des Savanes broadcasting from the northern city of Korhogo.

This sad state of affairs has prompted many analysts to call for the liberalisation and opening of the broadcasting space in this country of more than 60 ethnic groups and 60 vernacular languages.  

But Savané rejected such a call, saying the broadcasting space will only be opened and liberalised once the country has migrated from analogue to digital.

“We cannot fully liberalise this space and continue using it with the old, obsolete equipment and technologies,” he said, adding that the successful digital migration will offer many opportunities, including the launch of dozens of TV and radio stations and the creation of jobs.

It is believed that Ivory Coast’s digital migration process has also been affected by the 2011 post-electoral violence. Back in June 2011, seven West African countries – Benin, Nigeria, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Senegal – were said to have started some form of discussion on digital migration, an Association for Progressive Communication (APC) report released in 2011 said.

In July last year, the Working Group on Digital Migration presented its final report on the process, and Savané said the ball was now in the state’s court to make the final decision on opening up of the broadcasting space, as well as the kick off of the digital migration process.

China said last year that it will support Ivory Coast’s efforts to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting. 

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