For many Kenyans, hearing the word digital migration probably hit the Kenyan sphere during the 2013 General Elections. This is when the Jubilee government now known as the Jubilee Alliance Party,JAP, stated their core values was to make Kenya a Digital country, thus earning their title as the digital Government. Then we heard about the Digital migration when the Communications Authority of Kenya had a campaign with a hit song, “Tumetoka analogue, tuko digital… tuko digital.”
There have been many technological developments especially in the telecommunications and internet sector over the years. The broadcast sector has also experienced the same transition over time and one major development we are seeing in this sector has to be the Digital Migration.
So what does Digital transition really mean? First and foremost, it is basically a global process which mainly involves switching from an analogue signal to a digital signal. It involves reallocating entire frequencies, which was discussed and agreed upon by the Telecommunications Union’s Regional Telecommunication Conference under the United Nation umbrella. In this conference, most African countries committed to have moved by June 2015.
The transition has not been an easy ride. There has been enough drama as the 4 media stations KTN, NTV,QTV, and Citizen Television were off air for 19 days. These four have formed a consortium called the Africa Digital Network. They insisted on remaining on the analogue platform for an extended period of time even after the court ordered the analogue signal to be switched off.
For that period of time which was coined as the “dark days”, all manner of experts and the so called knowledgeable intellectuals, told us all manner of broadcasting terminologies such as frequencies, spectrum, free-to-view, free-to-air and set to boxes. As a viewer I was never concerned with all these terminologies. I was basically hoping and praying that the battle that was hurting us the most would end soon so we return to watching our favourite television programs and get a solution as fast as possible.
For us to enjoy this digital content our biggest hurdle as television enthusiasts was to acquire what is known as a Digital television. A digital television is any television that has digital tuner. If one has an analogue television, one makes their TV digital by acquiring a set top box or decoder. A set top box is a device that converts the traditional form of transmission analogue to a digital signal which can be easily viewed on an ordinary television set.
There are benefits for the digital migration. As the media convert their content on the digital platform, we are able to enjoy better picture and sound quality. Digital migration has also opened avenues for more diversified channels for viewers to enjoy. It has also opened avenues for vernacular content to be viewed on television rather than only be heard on radio platforms.
Digital migration has opened space for more business ventures. Broadcasting and telecommunications has been always been treated as separate entities but digital convergence will open market for companies what would want to offer triple play content to most consumers in Kenya, which involves providing internet, digital content channels and telecommunications solutions like a landline for the comfort of most consumers, which has mostly been embraced by companies like Zuku. Safaricom is also said to be coming up something similar and they have the advantage of already providing internet and telecommunications solutions.
I look back at the era where we would take almost 20 minutes trying to get the right kind of signal for certain TV stations. Somebody would be sent to set the aerial to the right angle so as to get clarity on that station. And now so much investment has been done to boost television clarity by moving towards digital migration. We have now moved away from the boosters we had to use before to boost clarity of most TV channels in addition to many aerials we had mounted on our houses. The digital migration is good, ‘tumetoka Analogue, tuko Digital.’
Article by Maureen Shelmith Wangari.