Friday, 4 November 2016

Mahama On Digital Terrestrial Television Network


It came as a joy to workers of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and indeed many Ghanaians when the President of the Republic, John Dramani Mahama disclosed on the corporation's Eastern Regional FM station, Sunrise FM that the corporation will be given the sole mandate to manage the digital terrestrial television network when it is completed. This is logical because even though the Ministry of Communication is leading the roll out of the network, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation [GBC] is the technical wing of the process. GBC would therefore be grateful to the president if the participation in the roll-out further deepened from the onset so that experience gained can be used to manage the network effectively and efficiently. Digital Terrestrial Television simply known as DTT is the next stage of terrestrial broadcasting, not only for television, but radio and data as well. Changing from analogue terrestrial television to digital terrestrial television, provides a platform for as many television programs, previously called channels, as possible.

For instance, since the digital switch-on in 2008, GBC can boast of six television programs namely GTV, GBC 24, GTV Sports Plus, GTV Life and Obonu TV. Uniiq FM is also on the DTT platform. Obonu TV is a powerful statement that GBC intends introducing regional television channels to serve the special needs of each region in terms of its culture, language and development needs.There is now Garden City TV or GCTV program waiting to utilize drop and add to concentrate on Ashanti region programs. Drop and add would facilitate local radio and television programs in the eight other regional capitals, Tamale, Wa, Bolga, Ho, Koforidua, Cape Coast, Sekondi and Sunyani. Inclusion of FM to the DTT network in particular is important because it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and sustain the various FM networks of GBC which are so special to the population in their respective areas.

With this new technology, listeners of GBC FM programs have an additional platform to continue to enjoy FM programs whose analogue FM transmitters are increasingly difficult to sustain due to lack of critical spares or even non-payment of electricity bills. It would not be an overstatement that DTT has come to enable GBC to deepen its public service broadcasting ethos! Workers of GBC see the President's announcement as a response to their calls to be afforded greater involvement in the DTT roll-out process. To demonstrate this commitment, there is the need for training of maintenance teams during this installation process so that experience gained would be used to manage the network. This also ties in with the recent policy intention to establish a National Transmission Entity which can form part of a holistic restructuring of GBC.


To this end, GBC staff in transmission can easily be made to concentrate on transmission for not only GBC, but all other radio and television broadcasters wanting to ride on a vast public network. Thus, hiving-off transmission out to a new non-subvented GBC removes a key huddle of a perceived over-staffing in GBC. An efficient DTT network can at the same time be operated alongside analogue radio networks. It is simply technically not feasible or wise to separate radio and television networks, whether analogue or digital. They can co-exist on the same towers. Not only that, the same locations can provide space for private DTT networks operated by Cable Gold, GOtv and First Digital, upon payment of fees to the National Transmission Entity. The co-location aspect of DTT is particularly important for viewers too, who would be saved the hassle of turning their ultra-high frequency receiving antennas here and there if transmitting antennas are differently located for the same target areas. An entity capable of carrying more than forty television programs and co-locating with all DTT network providers, would not need subvention to survive. It should be made to do business and survive. That challenge, GBC has demonstrated in agreeing to cede off transmission aspects of its operations as part of a general restructuring and right sizing policy. But the network must go with some encumbrances including the staff working there.

Workers of GBC are therefore looking forward to practical changes in the current DTT network roll out which is now in the third phase, the first and second phases having been completed in Greater Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Volta Regions.

BY ING DR ADAM I. IMORO, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF ENGINEERING, GBC AND MEMBER OF THE DIGITAL BROADCASTING MIGRATION COMMITTEE.

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