JIS News

The Broadcasting Commission has said that during the course of this year, every household will be informed about the need to begin making arrangements to convert their cable boxes and other domestic receiving equipment from older analog to more current digital recording systems.
Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Hopeton Dunn, noted while the process of the switchover is expected to proceed on a phased basis over several years, it was now imperative to begin national preparations in line with initiatives already taking place globally.
“These [initiatives] are mandated by the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations,” he pointed out, at the weekly JIS ‘Think Tank’, held recently at its offices on Half-Way Tree Road in Kingston.
A transition to digital technology in the form of Hi Definition Television, Digital Radio and other forms of digital expression is already underway in many jurisdictions of the world. While Jamaica will determine its own pace and will consult widely on the standards and methods of this transfer, the Chairman reiterated that there is recognition that it is an inescapable process, as the switchover is already being undertaken by many of the Jamaica’s partners.
“Some of our industry players locally have also started to plan for this change over, but there is still a large proportion of existing production, transmission and receiving equipment that is still analog in design and in technology. It means that those who are now acquiring new equipment should ensure that they are acquiring digital equipment and I speak in particular of those who are in the broadcast and cable sector as well as those in the domestic environment,” he said.
The Chairman pointed out that the transition from analog to digital broadcasting would be a major milestone for Jamaica and as such, the Commission would have to carefully manage the process as it is fast tracked. The benefits of the transition, he added, were tremendous, especially in the area of radio, where there is almost a full utilization of traditional airwave spaces for local FM radio.
“Digital radio presents a new opportunity to better utilize the broadcast spectrum and to integrate mobile and internet webcasting into the menu of options available to the Jamaican public and to do it in a way and to an extent than it is now being done. it broadens the scope for a richer media experience,” he said.
Dr. Dunn also mentioned that the infusion of digital systems into the local media sector would expand the reach and capacity of Jamaican programming globally and make its cultural products, delivered particularly through media and the internet, more competitive and in line with global trends and practices.
“Composed on old technologies these products are not going to get far in the global market and this is something that is part of our [Commission’s] strategic planning and thinking,” he pointed out.
It is also of interest that the United States, one of Jamaica’s major trading partners, and a significant source of equipment and programming, will effect their switchover to digital broadcasting in February 2009. “If we get stuck into the older analog technology then the world is going to leave us behind in a way that would not be appropriate,” Dr. Dunn stressed.
For those persons concerned about the impending cost of the transition, Dr. Dunn noted that there are always times when equipment may seem more expensive than it should be but, as time goes by, they become more affordable. “We need to keep an open mind and observe the context in which digital switchover is unfolding and play a part in it and assist in the dissemination of the information,” he appealed.
The Broadcasting Commission has been creating public awareness about the digital switchover from 2003 when it convened a major national workshop, at which it gave a clear indication as to where the media industry was going and discussed the implications of the emerging technologies for the industry.
“We have in subsequent years kept the situation under monitoring. The industry has already some sections of it taking initiatives in this regard and also some movement has been happening,” Dr. Dunn said.The Commission, for its part, will continue to bring the issue to the public attention and the industry players and Dr. Dunn said that it would be incumbent on all stakeholders to take whatever action necessary to facilitate this transition.