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Zambian broadcasters reject Draft Digital Migration Policy

On 3 June 2013, eleven private broadcasters rejected the Draft Digital Migration Policy, developed by [Zambia's] Ministry of Information.

In a letter dated 3 June 2013 and published by the Zambian Watchdog, the broadcasters stated that the policy proposes a number of provisions that are prejudicial to their interests.

The eleven broadcasters said the document seemed to be a final document, as it did not state that it was a draft copy and was developed without their consultation. “The document sent to us appears to be a policy document and not a draft. It is our considered view that before the document was even drafted, all stakeholders should have been consulted as per the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) stipulation. As it is, it appears that all stakeholders are being asked to rubber stamp a document which has been endorsed by the ministry without respective input from major television stakeholders.”

The letter also says that the TV stakeholders observed that the policy issue was one of the matters before the court for judicial review. “In light of the foregoing, we are of the considered view that the current digital migration policy be done away with and that a new one be formulated in which only the stakeholders are an integral part of. The policy in its current form is not all inclusive and is not born out of consultation with all stakeholders as required by the ITU.”

The eleven stakeholders have since requested a meeting with the Ministry of Information to further discuss the matter.

According to an appendix attached to the letter, the stakeholders have proposed fiscal measures – such as waving tariffs on digital transmitters, set top boxes, and production equipment. Stakeholders have also expressed the need for the policy to clearly state how the public signal distributor will be established.

Furthermore, the letter proposes clarification on whether the government would finance the establishment of the private signal distributor or, if not, permit the private broadcasters to establish and run their own network within the guidelines of the signal distributor.

The broadcasters lastly submit – in the same letter – the need for a third option for those operating “turnaround services” such as Go TV and those with the capacity to run their own Digital Terrestrial networks, as long as they are able to conform to the regulator's guidelines. The broadcasters therefore propose the addition of self-operated private signal distributors.

The broadcasters include Muvi, Mobi, Chipata, Solwezi, CB, CBC, and Prime TV stations. Others are MyTV, Mangrova Limited, Juvan Limited and Tesla Transformers.

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