JIS News

Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission, Cordell Green, has said that the Commission is working to ensure that everything is in place for the country to embark on a digital switchover.
A Digital Switchover Project (DSP) is underway, and Mr. Green said that although the project is in the very early stages, “a considerable amount of work has been done”.
“We have had seminars on the issue, and through the initiative of the Broadcasting Commission, a Digital Switchover Paper has been prepared and submitted to the Government of Jamaica for consideration, which is kind of a blueprint as for how we should embark on our DSP,” he told JIS News.
Digital switchover is the name given to the process in which analogue television broadcasting is converted to digital television. The transition is expected to result in improved quality of broadcasts, and the freeing up of valuable spectrum space for other services such as mobile, broadband and third generation services.
In terms of the implications for consumers, anyone who gets their TV signal through a rabbit ear antenna on top of the set, or an antenna on the roof, will need to buy a digital-to-analogue converter box in order to continue receiving a signal. Persons can also subscribe to a cable or satellite service or buy a new digital TV.
On January 15, the National Digital Switchover Steering Committee had its first meeting and according to Mr. Green, “one of the first tasks of that Steering Committee is to commission a feasibility study and at the end of the exercise, be in a better position to indicate the likely date for Jamaica to switch from analogue to digital”.
This study, the Executive Director informed, will help to determine “what’s going to be required if we go digital, what’s going to be the cost of changing our transmission facilities, how many persons in our country by the time we choose to go digital, will have digital TVs, how many will still have analogue TVs, what’s going to be the cost for either getting rid of those analogue TVs or ensuring that people have set boxes to be able to receive digital signals”.
The National Digital Switchover Steering Committee is chaired by the Minister of Information, Youth and Culture, Olivia Grange, with co-chairs from the Broadcasting Commission and the electronic media. It is supported by a number of working groups inclusive of public education, technical, consumer affairs, legal and regulatory.
Digital switchover is already taking place around the world, and has been completed in Scandinavian countries such as Finland and Sweden. The United States of America was scheduled to begin switchover on February 18, 2009 but that date has been pushed back.
Mr. Green has pledged that “as we move along with our digital programme, a critical part of it will be a companion public education programme so that persons are kept in the loop”.
On another matter, the Executive Director disclosed that cable operators across Jamaica will, sometime this quarter, get a final word as to whether or not they will be permitted to participate in substituted advertising on international channels.
“It is a matter, which is under review by the Commission [and we are] now awaiting an analysis of the real economic effect of such a move, particularly on the free-to-air TV stations, and the broader communications market. We will be taking a final decision on the matter in this quarter,” he told JIS News.
Currently, cable operators in Jamaica are not allowed to seek advertising to air on channels that originate outside of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. According to Mr. Green, substituted advertising is “a contentious area and there is a very strong lobby on the part of cable operators and some segments of the advertising sector for the removal of that restriction”.