Government has identified funding for the digital switchover study, which is slated to get underway this month.
Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, made the disclosure on April 4, during the national digital switchover steering committee meeting at Jamaica House.
The comprehensive study, to be undertaken by the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ), will determine requirements for ensuring a successful switchover to digital format in 2015, and assess the country's state-of-readiness, including carrying capacity.
Digital switchover is the term used for the replacement of the traditional analogue television (TV) broadcasting system with digital format. Jamaicans will have to upgrade their television sets and recording equipment to receive digital TV.
The Information Minister said the study will ventilate public policy considerations and will contain substantive economic analysis and projections for the future of the digital TV market, and consumer take-up of the different platforms and willingness to pay for new services.
She said that attention will also be given to the potential impact of analogue switch off; estimates of the value of released spectrum; cost benefit analysis of the digital switchover process; cost points and options for funding; technology selection, access and usability by persons with disabilities or other vulnerable groups; and environmental considerations.
The Minister said it is her intention to take “an interim report to the Cabinet seeking a definitive policy statement on 2015 as the date to begin transition."
She further informed that the Government has applied to the International Telecommunications Union for funding to establish a dedicated digital switchover project unit to be housed at the BCJ Secretariat.
Miss Falconer said the switchover process allows for the expansion and streaming of content from existing and new providers and its advent heralds the opportunity for more diverse domestic commercial services.
She said the national steering committee that has been examining the matter, must work diligently in advancing the digital switchover agenda, with the full awareness that undue delays will position the island on the wrong side of the digital divide.
For his part, Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, Dr. Hopeton Dunn, said digital switchover is a very important transition both locally and globally.
He noted that the study will inform “exactly how the actual process proceeds from now on." He said the BCJ will continue to play an important role in leading and guiding the process alongside the industry players.
“It is very important in proceeding with digital switchover in Jamaica that we do so in collaboration with our Caribbean counterparts… it is important that matters such as technical standard or the technology to be used in digital switchover be, as far as possible, collectively agreed upon, as well as matters of the digital switchover timeframe,” he stated.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter