Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) continues to be a threat to universal access and affordability of local TV signals under digital migration in Uganda despite the June 2015 deadline.
Many Ugandans may forget about TV if UCC goes ahead to switch off analogue TV signals without readiness.
Set-up boxes are crucial for the move to digital migration but UCC has only ten approved vendors according to its Website for the entire country. The set-top boxes are still costly for an average Ugandan. Set-up boxes are between Shs 120,000 and Shs 200,000 depending on features. The average Ugandan may opt for DVD entertainment. If more Ugandans are off TV after final digital migration roll-out, some local TV stations may collapse since they rely on advertising revenue justified by their viewership base. When viewership is low, then advertisers may stop their advertising. What will happen to local TV stations that can not afford the expected high fees for their signal to be carried digitally?
The Communication Authority of Kenya recently shut down analogue signals over a row with NTV, QTV, KTN and Citizen. Many TV viewers in Kenya were affected. The incident gives UCC a number of lessons. There are still unresolved issues surrounding digital signal management between UBC and UCC.The Ugandan Company supposed to handle the signal has been alleged to be operating without a license.The process may end up in court battles.
The coverage of the digital signal is still limited to only about a 70 kilometre radius from Kololo.Retailers of set-up boxes are communicating the same. When will the entire country be covered? This leaves the rest of Uganda with the Pay-TV option which is costly. UCC has failed to push for a ‘must carry all free policy’ to force all Pay-TV firms to air local FTA channels even when subscription expires. The absent digital migration law would help address this. We will continue with Digital migration challenges as long as no law is enacted.[related_posts]
Ignorance about the migration process limits universal access. Gaps in public awareness have worsened the situation.UCC has not helped even with misleading Pay-TV adverts that seem to imply that the only way to receive the new digital channels is to acquire their decoder.
The option to use internet to watch TV after the analogue switch off is not viable considering the unreliable internet coverage services in the country. It is true that flat screens TVs today have Wi-fi and almost each local Ugandan TV channel has a developed a TV mobile app. But how many can afford internet costs?
The other option to pick the digital signal is to use the integrated digital television sets that come with in-built decoders. Has UCC engaged Ugandan based TV manufacturers to explore the option?
Power is also another bottleneck to universal access of digital signals in Uganda.UCC needs to work with the private sector to develop alternative power sources. There are no battery or solar powered set-up boxes.
Access to information should be a right to the poor and rich. UCC should fully engage all stakeholders.UCC will deliver a lot if it fully engaged radio listeners’ and TV viewers’ clubs across the country. There is need to create a fund to ensure universal access of signals by availing set-up boxes to the poor at a subsidised fee or no cost. There is need for every Ugandan to advocate for removal of taxes on digital migration equipment.UCC must allocate more six months to run two sets of analogue and digital signals simultaneously.
Ivan .N. Baliboola
PR and organisational diagnosis specialist