Another crisis may be looming in Malawi. This time it’s in the telecommunications sector.
By 16th of June 2015, the government was supposed to switch off the analogue TV signals in Zomba and Mzuzu(The Lilongwe analogue signal is scheduled to be switched off in September this year), in preference to digital broadcasting – which is already switched on, as part of the SADC deadline for digital migration onto the DTT network, for which ~ US$6 million was spent.
With Digital migration, it means each person who wishes to watch TV thereafter must have a digital receiver as per International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommendation / directive which the Malawi Government is a signatory.
It goes without saying that digital transmission will bring with it many benefits to Malawi, including quality pictures and efficient use of the frequency spectrum. Unfortunately most people in these areas are not aware of the need to migrate, and would have been surprised to find that there is no TV signal on the 17th June. But the deadline passed, and the analogue signal hasn’t yet been switched off in Malawi.
The Government previously gave Huawei an order to supply a few thousand set-top boxes, but these fell short of the total required, and run out within a couple of weeks. This could possibly be the reason why the switchover hasn’t happened in time in that there is a shortage of compliant set-top boxes. Another reasons could be because of problems within the digital TV transmission process. Whichever way, Peter Mutharikas government may be open to criticism for not anticipating or acting quickly enough to resolve this problem. Some people may even blame previous administrations and technology Managers – without understanding the history of developments with this issue (which in many cases is not in the public domain)
To facilitate the changeover to digital, the Malawi government set up a company in the form of the Malawi Digital Broadcasting Network Limited for signal distribution, to run the towers and the engineering that goes with it. The legal framework was to adapt how broadcasters, network/ infrastructure proprietors and content providers are licensed, and to move away from the archaic thinking of allowing broadcasters/ service providers to own physical infrastructure, freeing them to focus on content creation. However this move has met some opposition, and some people consider MDBNL an operator, not a regulatory authority.
“The meeting was on 10th June, 6 days before the change-over, and we weren’t even invited.”
“How can you migrate without changing the licenses” the same broadcaster said
“In South Africa, a Malawian broadcaster will not be given preference in broadcasting, why should these guys have preference?”
- TV Digital migration risks being derailed (BNL Times)