Decision makers contemplate digital switchover in the Caribbean

Digital broadcasting is a relatively new technology used in broadcasting media whereby information is transmitted, and decoded in digital form-that is, as a series of ones and zeros. This process produces much clearer audio and video than analogy systems similar to the difference between a compact disc recording (digital) and audiotapes (analogue). Analogue broadcasting is the means by which television signals are broadcasted in the Caribbean today.

Since digital broadcasting offers major benefits; many counties around the world have switched to this method of broadcasting. This process is known as the ‘digital switchover’. The digital switchover is important for everyone to consider as it means that after a period of time, current analogue televisions will be of no use and consumers will need to replace or upgrade their devices.

Benefits of Digital Switchover

Apart from superior video and audio, digital TV also permits additional features to be embedded in signals including program and consumer information as well as interactivities. This means more channels can be accommodated on the same space. As such, more local programming may be facilitated, increasing the variety of programming for the end user. Many countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan have switched to digital in order to realise the many benefits the system offers.

Navito - Digital Switchover 1       Image Credit: Digital television offers better picture quality

Switchover in the Caribbean

For the aforementioned reasons, as well as other compelling reasons such as the fact that many Caribbean countries receive programming form North America, which is tending toward digital, digital switchover in the Caribbean is but inevitable.

At a recent meeting held in Antigua, the inaugural Digital Broadcasting Switchover Forum (DBSF), various Caribbean leaders, including ministers from Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda,  and Montserrat, met to discuss various issues surrounding the proposed switchover. In his keynote address, Dr Edmond Mansoor, Minister of State, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology of the Office of Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda, alluded to both the opportunities and challenges of the digital broadcasting switchover.

Navito - Digital Switchover 2  Image Credit: makers discuss switchover

Issues Related To Switchover

While there are compelling reasons that call for switchover, there are also a number of challenges that the need represents:

1.      Working with broadcasters to reallocate the frequency spectrum for transmission.

2.      Licensing

3.      Upgrading and replacing analogue technologies.

4.      Enacting new laws for preventing digital crime.

5.      Comparing the different approaches adopted by the US and Canada.

6.      Engagement of and assistance provided to consumers

After the conference however, Caribbean decision makers had a better grasp at the complexities of digital switchover. It was however stressed that now is the time to begin making important decisions related to digital broadcasting, particularly legal and infrastructural. One critically important issue to consider going forward is the practical engagement of and assistance provided to customers who will be ‘forced’ to go the digital routes. This process must begin with a campaign of public discussion and sensitisation.

Navito - Digital Switchover 3

Image Credit:                                                                                                                                                                   

Digital TV is the new trend today

Digital broadcasting has been adopted by several countries across the world, particularly in Europe, the Middle East, America, Africa and parts of Asia. For the Caribbean, proving the best viewing and multimedia experience for its people is an important service that governments must facilitate. As the discussion towards the digital switchover continues, it is hoped that the correct decisions are made such that the many benefits may be realised.

By: Norvan Martin



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