DTT – Shuffling to the finish line: As predicted, the majority of African countries did not make the ITU’s June 2015 deadline. Even now, six months later, only a handful of countries have actually finished the transition process.
Although more countries have now started making more detailed plans for implementation, the road to completion seems to be littered with legal challenges. Two examples will suffice.
In Nigeria in November 2014, Pinnacle Communications Ltd took out a legal action against the regulator NBC for violation of the Nigerian Government policy on digital switchover. In Senegal the signal distributor is in a legal dispute with a set-top box vendor about issues around sales exclusivity. Whatever the rights and wrongs of either case, they all add delay and uncertainty to the completion of the process. By contrast, South Africa at last has set a its own final deadline and is moving steadily towards it.
One of the biggest obstacles to implementation has been the lack of funding to create a new DTT infrastructure. The alternatives on offer have been either Pay TV provider Star Times or a Chinese equipment vendor with a loan from China’s Exim Bank. Ghana, which initially went with StarTimes (with whom it is now in legal dispute), has sought to carve out a different financing route. It will use the proceeds of the auction of 4G spectrum to mobile operators to get the necessary financing to underwrite the completion of the process. If this works, then it may signal another way of financing the transition.
My colleague Sylvain Beletre was recently at a meeting in Benin of francophone countries tackling the DTT transition and one of the challenges participants kept coming back to was the absence of available local content for the new channel opportunities created by DTT.
More channels, more content but what happens to rights payments?: In those countries like Kenya that are now underway with the DTT transition, the number of channels has significantly increased. There are also more Pay TV channels and a number of satellite FTA platforms with new channels.
The increase in the number of channels must mean a greater requirement for content, international and/or local. Whilst some channels can be filled successfully with international content (for example, telenovelas), it will be very difficult to attract local audiences without compelling local content.
Source / Read more : BalancingAct Africa, December 18th, 2015