Malawi Government to subsidise STBs
By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi
The Government of Malawi on Friday announced that it will subsidise the price of digital television decoder, known as a Set Top Box (STB) by close to 30 percent as June 17 the day Malawi will join the rest of the world in migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting draws closer.
This was announced by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu who presided over the launch of the digital migration public awareness campaign in Lilongwe.
“For people to access the digital television they will have to purchase a. Currently, these decoders are available for sale in all major Post Offices in the country at MK25, 500(US$56),” he said.
He however said Malawi President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika said he found the price prohibitive as most of Malawians cannot afford it, resulting in them being denied access to information which is a fundamental human right for everyone.
“Therefore, it has pleased the State President Prof Mutharika to direct that the price of the consignment of Set Top Boxes currently on sale be reduced to MK20, 000.00 (US$43.9) with immediate effect,” Tembenu announced.
Furthermore, he said Government will see to it that subsequent consignments of the digital decoders shall be sold at a much lower price, so that most of Malawians, especially those in rural communities can afford them.
In this regard, Tembenu said Government has put in place mechanisms for ensuring that enough decoders are available for the people to access digital television.
On the awareness, he said the task of creating this awareness on digital broadcasting is quite enormous and requires collaborative effort between Government and stakeholders in the broadcast industry, including broadcasters.
Tembenu said digital broadcasting is a new phenomenon which will affect the broadcasting industry, consumers and the Malawi nation.
“However, currently, there is little or no awareness among the citizens on digital broadcasting, a situation which may result in people being not ready and willing to transition from analogue to digital television broadcasting and yet the migration deadline is fast approaching,” explained Tembenu.
He said it is for this reason that Government, through the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Culture intends to embark on an intensive, efficient and effective nationwide public awareness campaign to make the public aware of how to migrate from analogue to digital television broadcasting.
“The launch of the public awareness campaign today clearly indicates Government’s commitment to ensuring that the Malawian population has adequate relevant and accurate information necessary for them to understand, appreciate, and be ready and willing to migrate to digital broadcasting,” he said before adding:
“It further signifies Government’s commitment to supporting the migration process so that it goes smoothly.”
He said he is aware that in the digital era after 17th June, 2015, Malawians will not only be able to have a better picture and sound quality but will also have the opportunity to select local programmes or television stations of their choice without hassles.
“In addition, the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting will enable Malawi to free up frequencies which could be allocated to other ICT services that will help stir our country to greater prosperity,” he said.
It is also hoped that this switch will also provide job opportunities for the Malawi youth as they will be engaged in production of television content for broadcast, thereby engaging in an economic activity through self-employment.
“I, therefore, wish to call upon all stakeholders, including the licensed broadcasters, to partner with Government in creating public awareness on digital broadcastingto ensure adequate understanding of digital migration among all Malawians,” he said.
“In the same vein,” he said, “I wish to appeal to retailers of television receive equipment, especially, STBs, to provide adequate consumer education to their customers, to ensure that they acquire equipment that will enable them access digital television,” he said.
He also warned traders not take advantage of the migration process and customers’ low levels technical know-how to dupe customers by selling them equipment that is not digital compliant.
“In the same breadth, traders should ensure that Malawi does not turn into a dumping site for e-waste,” he said.
At this point Tembenu then called upon relevant authorities, including the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) to collaborate with Government in this regard.
“Let me take this opportunity, therefore, to appeal to broadcasters and all stakeholders interested to venture into STB business to apply to Government, through the Ministry Information for STB business licenses,” he said.
Since Government commissioned the digital television network in December, 2013 only nine out of 18 local television channels are on the network.
"May I urge the remaining licensed television broadcasters to avail their signals so that Malawians enjoy quality local programming,” said Tembenu.