How can African broadcasters reap digital dividends?

Many countries in Africa are in the process of migrating from analog to digital broadcasting. It is a process that, once achieved, could turn around the broadcasting business on the continent.
A participant asks a question at the on-going African Union of Broadcasting  meeting in Kigali yesterday. (All photos by Timothy Kisambira)
A participant asks a question at the on-going African Union of Broadcasting meeting in Kigali yesterday. (All photos by Timothy Kisambira)

Many countries in Africa are in the process of migrating from analog to digital broadcasting. It is a process that, once achieved, could turn around the broadcasting business on the continent.

As members of African Union of Broadcasting (AUB) are meeting in Kigali ahead of General Assembly, it was revealed that the ambitious agenda by African broadcasters would take more than written plans to achieve this process.

The Ghanaian deputy minister for Communications, George Nenyi Andah, said that with Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), there are benefits for governments, broadcasters and consumers, highlighting his country’s experience.

“In my country, we have set up DTT network infrastructure. This is already providing opportunity to quality content production, ability to market the country and the continent much better, and it is allowing for government information dissemination,” he said.

The switch to digital broadcasting, he added, has brought down the cost of entry in the space, and the country is moving to achieve 110 channels from the 42 channels.

“But this is not enough. As countries, we should be thinking of generating revenues from every programme we broadcast.  We should also raise value proposition beyond broadcasting. We should look at this as a commercial investment,” he noted.

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Guests follow proceedings at the African Union of Broadcasting meeting in Kigali yesterday.

Many other participants gathered at Kigali Convention Centre opined that the digital transformation that broadcasters were going through will unlock new business avenues.

But Emmanuel Wongibe, the deputy director general of Cameroon Radio Television, said for Africa to reap digital dividends from the migration process, broadcasters should think differently.

“We should be creative and change the way of doing business as broadcasters. Digital revolution has enabled multiplicity of channels, but this is not a dividend in itself but what you do with channels. This is a critical starting point for everyone,” he noted.

“We have seen telecoms move simply from telephone companies to money transfer operations to insurance operations. Lots of value added services. They understood what the dividend was. Us, on the other side, we did not see this. We should change our economic thinking”.

He also said that broadcasters cannot stick to classic advertisement, instead, digital technology can open up new ways of packaging information, and that broadcasters should, in the long run, commercialise the digital infrastructure being set up to generate more revenues.

“We have to be intellectually inclined, which means understanding ways of working with and making decisions that benefit us,” noted Ayub Rioba, the Director General of Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation.

He added that African broadcasters should be ideologically aware, as well as culturally rooted, which he said will go a long way to promote African content.

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Members of African Union of Broadcasting (AUB) are meeting in Kigali ahead of the General Assembly.

In the age where 454 million Africans have access to the internet, the Tanzanian official said operators must innovate around this as the growing online consumption is making it hard for broadcasting business to survive.

According to the 2017 report by Eurodata, the average TV consumption per day in Africa is only 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Participants suggested that to be able to overcome challenges related to expensive audio-visual equipment, Africa should put in place its  own production plant.

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Members of African Union of Broadcasting during a group discussion in Kigali yesterday. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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