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Address issues that will affect digital switchover, Reid urges

BY DEANDRA MORRISON
Online reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 23, 2017

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MINISTER of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid is calling on stakeholders to address issues that will affect Jamaica's digital switchover (DSO) from analogue broadcasting, a conversation that has been ongoing since 2003.

Reid had announced earlier this year that work was being done by the National Digital Switchover (NDS) Steering Committee to guide Jamaica in its digital switchover process over the next four years. The NDS was established in 2012.

“We need to arrive at the best decisions for jurisdiction, to realise the benefits the shift will bring,” Reid said at the opening ceremony of the two-day Commonwealth Digital Broadcasting '17 Caribbean Conference on Tuesday.

“While there are compelling forces that drive the digital switchover, there is need to take into consideration a number of issues. Firstly, we must work alongside broadcasters and other stakeholders to arrive at policies which take account of the investment required of them,” he said.

The minister further pointed out that a new business model would need to be designed for businesses that would “facilitate a season of the opportunities that the digital switchover brings”.

He said, too, that a new licensing regime and changes would be required with “respect to the allocation of spectrum for transmission”.

Also, Reid said an effective communication campaign needed to be rolled out to achieve optimal engagement and input from the public.

Meanwhile, Broadcasting Commission Assistant Executive Director Karlene Salmon, who also spoke at the conference, said that the NDS Steering Committee had, in 2014, prepared a report outlining recommendations to Cabinet for the switch.

“We are at the stage now where we are preparing a Cabinet submission, which is to be made with a view to give the minister and the Broadcasting Commission, as the regulator, certain powers,” she updated.

Salmon said: “In the minister's case, one key power that will be recommended is that he be given the authority to declare the analogue switch-off date and declare the digital switch-off date and the final switchover date.”

She added that until Cabinet has accepted the submission, “any discussion about a date would be indicative”.

While outlining Jamaica's DSO progress, the Broadcasting Commission executive noted that more than 800,000 TV households would benefit from the switch.

Salmon also revealed that the DSO would have a beneficial impact on Jamaica's gross domestic product (GDP).

“We see the increased penetration of broadband via digital TV as one way to increase and enhance our GDP [as] there is a positive correlation between Internet penetration and GDP.

“We believe that Internet access can be facilitated through the digital television platform that could increase broadband penetration by approximately five per cent, also seeing an increase in GDP of $5.7 billion after analogue switch-off. So it's very important for us,” she said.

Salmon stated, too, that based on a cost-benefit analysis done on DSO in 2012 by the Broadcasting Commission, “the project will yield a net present value of $2.5 billion”.

She further stated: “Our (Jamaica's) major trading partners in the United Stated, Canada, UK, and China are among the countries that have already converted to digital television.”

Salmon added that the International Telecommunication Union had signalled in 2006 that by 2015 all European and African countries should have completed their transition from analogue to digital transmission.

“So 2015 is treated as the watermark year for the few remaining countries, including Jamaica,” she said.

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