National advocacy plan on digital migration in Mozambique

Author's name: 
Tomas Viera Mario
MAPUTO

On December 5, 2013, a national advocacy planning workshop on digital migration in Mozambique took place in Maputo. It was organised by the local organisatin SEKELEKANI in partnership with APC.

The workshop
Close to 20 people participated, including representatives from relevant governmental institutions, and representatives from different civil society organizations focused on governance, human rights and, in particular, access to information. The workshop produced a draft National Advocacy Plan on Digital Migration in Mozambique that includes the creation of a Digital Migration Observation movement to closely monitor the process that is sought to be highly delayed in Mozambique.

The objectives of the workshop were threefold: a) to assess progress, inclusiveness, constraints and opportunities for greater collaboration between the different stakeholders; b) to develop a shared advocacy plan vision, with the selection of specific issues and focus areas.

The context
By June 2015 all countries should change the way their people have had access to broadcasting services, including TV signal: it is the migration from the existing transmission system, called analog to digital system. This process brings many advantages and opportunities, but also has many challenges. On the consumer side, the reception of digital television signals will involve the acquisition of new digital devices or signal converters, whose buying conditions in Mozambique are as yet unclear. The transition will also have implications on business: television operators, which should purchase new digital equipment; produce content in digital form, review their schedule, and be prepared to share signal transmission infrastructure with other operators. For its part, the private sector should be prepared to meet the new needs of consumers, providing new digital equipment.

The process involves very high investments and the involvement of all stakeholders, and this requires timely access to information, to be provided by the government, and using different means and methods. In general, most Mozambicans still do not know what will happen until June 2015, as they should prepare to continue to have access to television services and how the government is getting ready to ensure their fundamental right to information access . A recent research on the subject commissioned by the Danish NGO IBIS in May 2013 has found that the process in Mozambique is lagging behind and calls for more political engagement from the country’s political leadership.

Key issues emerging from the workshop
The Vice – Chair of the Digital Migration Commission (COMID), Mr. Simão Anguilaze, a structure that is supervised by the National Communications Institute of Mozambique (INCM) updated the participants on the progress made so far towards the deadline of June 2015. Among other things, he stated that the construction of transmission infrastructures will start in March 2014 and that that a phased shutdown will be implemented from December 2014 to June 2014. In terms of the set-top-box, the devise that 1.2 million households will need to receive digital TV, he assured the audience that the government will take policy and business measures to ensure that all families have access to a set- top box. •

There’s still a great challenge prevailing on the regulation of broadcasting in the digital environment, especially in programming and content regulation, announced Ezekiel Mavota, Director of the Information Office (GABINFO). To respond to that challenge, GABINFO is planning to establish a Technical Working Team, which should produce proposals for regulation, as a matter of urgency.

Advocacy planning
Based on the issues raised during the discussions, advocacy activities were planned in three areas

Regulators
In Mozambique, as in most African countries, the broadcasting and telecommunications are treated as separate vertical markets. However, the digital convergence means that telecoms operators are involved with broadcasting entities and these are using Internet and voice services. One consequence of this scenario is a profound reform of the entire system of regulation in Mozambique, currently spread across various governmental entities.

Programming and content In the absence of a broadcasting law (regulating both Radio and Television), which could establish some criteria on content quotas, who and how diverse content will be managed? This loophole could jeopardize a more balanced access to information and the legitimate rights of consumers, taking into account the specific needs of different audiences.

Copyright Again, the absence of a broadcasting law establishing effective monitoring systems makes room for unfair competition and disorderly conduct in the TV market, where it is unclear whether or not pay all such rights.

Sustainability of the industry Knowing that public operators receive state funds for their operations and foreign operators have almost all the costs of their programs covered in origin, how the law can protect the industry from the phenomena of cannibalization or from dumping policies?

Weak inclusion and lack of information and civic education on digital migration The success of the digital migration, that is primarily a social rather than a technological process, requires the active involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including consumers. The achievement of this aim implies that the wide public is provided with complete information and knowledge through various channels, methodologies and information dissemination platforms.

This gap can be seen not only among most consumers, but also within the private sector and broadcasting operators themselves, which explains why they have been expressing little motivation to participate in key debates about the process..

Risk of exclusion inaccessibility or unavailability of set top boxes (STBs)
Regarding accessibility and availability, the following factors should be considered:

  • Affordable costs, particularly among the low-income population;
  • Entities and distribution methods that are transparent, comprehensive and efficient; Regarding technical compatibility:
  • STBs should be able to receive multiple platforms and operators, hence the need for harmonization and compliance services.
  • Consider a class of STBs with minimum compatibility and harmonization requirements that are at the reach of less educated layers.

Risk of exclusion due lacking of proper command of technical instruments or faulty antenna placement
This risk – citizens currently with TV access pass to not have it at the switch off time – can derive from technical problems related to lack of signal in some places, due to an inability of the MUX to cover the entire national territory or because of the existence of blackout areas. Other factors may be lack of knowledge or understanding by the consumer on the installation and handling of the functionality of remote STB / antennas due to poor placement of towers.

Lack of strong political commitment and engagement
Serious delays characterize Mozambique’s preparation process towards digital migration, including the implementation of crucial stages, such as information dissemination, awareness and digital literacy dissemination, on the content, meaning and social, technological and economic implications of the process. In addition to that, the lack of any progress on the formulation of policy and regulation, as well as the weak mobilization and involvement of most stakeholders, such as civil society and the private sector, represent serious risks for a safe and inclusive transition.

The reasons for this bleak picture can be found in the absence of a strong political engagement and commitment by the government. This is reflected in the fact that, less than two years from the transition deadline , the government has not yet formally approved any fundamental instrument, including but not limited to: a) digital migration policy; b) digital migration strategy; c) communication and civic education plan; d) financing strategy that can demonstrate the sustainability of the industry.

This lack of political commitment can be easily identified, compared to a large number of countries in the region, such as Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania, where the public engagement of national political leadership has been instrumental in galvanizing and boosting the participation of all stakeholders and ensuring compliance with the international calendar in a secure and safe manner. The workshop has concluded that this lack of engagement may result from lack of solid information and knowledge on what digital migration entails by the country’s political leadership.

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