November 28th, 2017

Caribbean countries urged to make progress in switch to digital broadcasting

Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation and Jamaica’s Broadcasting Commission engage policymakers and regulators on benefits of digital switchover.

Kingston, 28 November 2017 – Shola Taylor, secretary-general of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), warned Caribbean countries they will miss out on the economic and social benefits of digital broadcasting if they fail to make progress on the transition from analogue.

Mr Taylor was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Digital Broadcasting Caribbean Forum’17, which took place over two days on 21 – 22 November in Kingston, Jamaica to examine the challenges and solutions for digital broadcasting in the region.

“The benefits of transitioning to digital broadcasting are clear,” said Mr Taylor. “The digital dividend realised by switchover can meet the growing demand for wireless communication, such as mobile broadband. The switchover also provides the opportunity for better quality and more innovative broadcasting services. These new digital broadcasting services offer large commercial value to the Caribbean, which could be a leading exporter to other regions and I challenge the region to accelerate the transition and reap the social and economic benefits of digital broadcasting.”

Mr Taylor was speaking at the opening ceremony alongside Senator the Honourable Ruel Reid, minister of education, youth and information of Jamaica, Gary Allen, president of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, Patricia Sinclair McCalla, commissioner at the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, Rochelle Cameron, vice chairman and director of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations, Ansord E Hewitt, director-general of the Office of Utilities Regulation of Jamaica and Ilham Ghazi, head of broadcasting services division at the Radiocommunication Bureau of the ITU. The ceremony was chaired by Cordel Green, executive director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica.

The high-level speakers agreed on the need to speed up progress on digital switchover in the Caribbean:

“We have been talking about digital switchover in the Caribbean for 10 years,” said Mr Allen. “We must not be talking about it still in 10 years’ time. CBU members need to have clear policy and regulatory plans for how indigenous media will be facilitated to transition.”

“The global march towards digitization has made the transition to digital TV an inevitable imperative for the broadcasting industry in the Caribbean,” said Ms Sinclair McCalla.

“Broadcasting has changed and we are entering a new era,” said Ms Cameron. “Policymaking and regulation in the Caribbean should support this digital future and we must all get on board.”

“We cannot meet the challenges and demands of present and future generations by operating in a business as usual manner,” said Mr Hewitt.

The event heard about the digital switchover experiences of countries from across the Commonwealth and beyond: the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Haiti, Nigeria, Samoa, South Africa, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, the UK and the USA. The event also examined the technical considerations of digital broadcasting, opportunities for innovative services and the role of public broadcasting in the digital age.

Fifty-four member countries of the ITU have completed the process of switching their broadcasting from analogue to digital. However, no independent Caribbean country has completed the process, with many not yet having started [1].

Key outcomes from the event included:

  • Agreement that local content is important.
  • Reliable, local broadcasting services are vital in times of national emergency (as we have seen recently following the tropical storms in the Caribbean).
  • Local content can draw on the richness of a local culture and also provide income through exporting to other markets.
  • Digital switchover is a costly process: some countries have invested significant public funds, while in others this is not available.
  • Support needs to be given to the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
  • Regions can, and should, work together on the digital transition, especially with regard to standards and frequency coordination.
  • Regulation is important in order to ensure the digital dividend is wisely apportioned and that content is not illegal.

For more information, please contact The Communications Team, [email protected] or +44 20 8600 3813.

About the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) is the oldest and largest Commonwealth intergovernmental organisation in the field of information and communication technologies. With a diverse membership spanning developed and least developed countries, small island developing states, and more recently also the private sector and civil society, the CTO aims to become a trusted partner for sustainable development for all through ICTs.