CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

5 July 2014

Burundi Only EAC Member Yet to License a TV Signal Distributor

With less than one year to ITU's June 2015 deadline for all countries to migrate their TV broadcast from analogue to digital platform, Burundi, one of the East African Community (EAC) member states, is yet to license even a single broadcast signal distributor.

A report compiled from the recent EACO Assembly of Broadcasting Operators in Arusha, Tanzania by Digital TV Africa, an initiative of Pablo Divino, a Kenya-based ICT firm, states that "Burundi stood out as the only country that is yet to licence a signal distributor or even develop an awareness campaign logo."

"There is only one Digital TV transmission site in Bujumbura owned by PayTV operator Startimes. The signal covers Bujumbura and across Lake Tanganyika to parts of DR Congo. Although the total number of transmitter sites that need to be changed from analogue to digital is only 6; unlike 14 in Rwanda and 32 in Kenya; alot remains to be done for Digital TV to take off in Burundi," states the DigitalTV Africa report, adding that there is lack of progress in developing the necessary laws and regulation, consumer awareness or a strategy to guarantee Free-to-Air set top box availability.

The Status of Digital Migration in the member countries was one of the agenda items with others being Infrastructure Development, Connectivity and Digital Inclusion; ICT Services and Applications; IP Networks, Standards and Cybersecurity; Broadcasting Development and Regulation; Resource Planning, Allocations and Management and Communications Service Pricing and Industry Analysis.

The DigitalTV Africa further states that delegates from Burundi expressed concern that their country may not meet the ITU deadline of June 17, 2015, adding that this "would be an unfortunate outcome for neighbouring countries due to signal interference."

"Burundi's small television viewership population (estimated at less than 900,000) and the restrictive media regulations present glaring disincentives to potential investors in broadcasting. The July 2015 national elections appear to observers as the guarantee that analogue TV will not be switched off in time for the ITU deadline," notes the report.

However, amidst all the uncertainty around the process, the report notes that with political will, "Burundi could migrate directly to DVB-T2 in 6 transmission sites and the citizens can buy DVB-T2 set top boxes without ever owning older DVB-T boxes."

Already, the Chinese government has committed US $ 40 million to help the country make the switchover to digital broadcasting from analogue by June 2015, according to an article by Reuters.

The Reuters story states that part of the US $40 million will be in the form of a grant from the Chinese government to Burundi while the other would be a loan provided by Export-Import Bank of China to payTV provider StarTimes and Burundi state TV (RNTB) as a joint venture.

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