London — Cote d'Ivoire is both opening up its broadcasting space and implementing its digital transition. However, the speed of both developments has been rather slow. Russell Southwood looks at the latest announcement and tries to understand the implications for new growth in the audio-visual sector.
In August 2018, the digital transition in broadcast finally got under with the Minister of Communication and Media, Sidi Tiémoko Touré opening a DTT transmission centre in Abobo. More centres will be completed by the end of this year and the switch-off is planned for June 2020.
A consortium of three companies from the United States, South Africa and Côte d'Ivoire were selected following a call for tenders to complete the roll-out of the DTT network by 2020. The operation, which will cost about 22 billion CFA francs (33 million euros), will be implemented at the same time as the liberalization of the audiovisual space. According to the Minister, after a first successful pilot phase for DTT, the area of Greater Abidjan, about 25% of the population, has been covered since June 2015.
The liberalization of the broadcast space started in December 2016. One of the delays in privatization has been the insistence by the Government that new private channels wait until the DTT process was implemented. There is some sense in this position but the slow speed of implementation has meant that some of the new channel investors have simply lost patience and left. Cote d'Ivoire is well placed to become a production hub for francophone West Africa.
In the break between Christmas and the New Year the President of the Higher Council of Imams (Cosim) Cheick Bouakary Fofana announced that a new national Islamic TV station called Al Bayane would launch in March 2019. It will be the first terrestrial religious TV channel in the country.
To fund the channel, Imams have launched a fundraising campaign amongst the faithful to raise 1 billion CFA. Referred to as the "Green Storm", the idea is for each of Cote d'Ivoire's Muslim faithful to give CFA1,000 ((€ 1.50).
The money collected will be used to equip studios with production equipment and satisfy the financial conditions related to the opening of a new television channel. The owner of the national Islamic radio 'Al-bayane' and the newspaper 'Islam info' (who is behind the new TV station) said that this initiative will allow them to strengthen their presence in the Ivorian media.
There are other religious channels - like the Catholic TV station Ecclesia TV and many Christian evangelical channels - but these are all either online or broadcast as part of satellite packages.
In May 2018 the Minister of Communication, Digital Economy and Post, Government spokesman Bruno Nabagné Koné at the opening of DISCOP 2017) in Abidjan that the Government was considering setting up a production fund to assist broadcasters and providing a more favorable constitutional framework for audiovisual creation. A more recent report suggests that one billion CFAs (1.5 million euros) has been set aside for commercial channels and 500 million CFAs for faith-based channels.