Digital broadcast migration in West Africa: What's the dividend?

African countries committed to migrating to digital broadcasting by June 2015. It will be a costly process for both for governments and citizens and right now it is not really clear what the benefits will be or where the resources needed to make the transition will come from. And the reality is that only a few African countries have started on the policy work needed to create the transition and most of the discussion is focused on technical questions.

Arguably, the change over to digital TV is one of the most fundamental changes in African broadcasting for over a decade. People are starting to raise wider questions about the virtual non-existence of public interest broadcasting and the chance for interactive media with more citizen participation.

This 12-month project aims to work with civil society, broadcasters, policy-makers and regulators to produce the data and tools required to make informed decisions about the migration and the balance of costs and benefits they might choose.

Carrying out research in Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal and comparing them with five countries where the digital transition is more advanced (Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda) we hope to:

  • Get all stakeholders to focus their efforts on how to lower the cost of digital migration and look at how a wider range of benefits can be reaped.
  • Encourage African policy-makers and regulators to open up their decision-making processes to broadcasters and civil society organisations and to have all of them tackle the changes happening from something more than just a technical perspective.
  • Influence overall thinking about what represents “public interest” media in Africa and to create a couple of exemplars of a different way of tackling issues of content, access, governance and funding.

Other outputs include a multistakeholder conference, usable online tools for policy-makers to be able to calculate costs and national workshops in two countries where there is sufficient government and stakeholder interest to pioneer new models. The project ends in June 2011.

Balancing Act is leading the research programme and APC will lead the awareness-raising initiative.

The researchers for the four selected countries are: Didier Kla in Cote d’Ivoire, Eric Osiakwan and Charles Amega-Selorm in Ghana, Ben Akoh and Abi Jagun in Nigeria and Olivier Sagna in Senegal.

Read the country reports, issue papers and summary articles on digital migration in West Africa

Photo by Andy Rennie. Used with permission under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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