Ethiopia: Etv gets extra budget money to increase transmission coverage


The Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency (ERTA) requested an additional budget of 280 million Br from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) for ongoing projects including the digitisation of television broadcasts. The budget directorate of the ministry was evaluating the request and approved 200 million Br late last week.

ERTA's budget request for 2009/10 was 525.7 million Br. However, the ministry had approved only 187 million Br. Now the agency has wiped out that money in ongoing radio and television projects, which prompted its request for the additional funds.

ERTA plans to increase the coverage of its television and radio broadcasts nationwide from 42.7pc and 67pc to 87pc and 96pc of the country, respectively. It intends to achieve this by constructing an additional 53 relay stations for television and three for radio at a cost of 211.4 million Br and 40.2 million Br, respectively. So far, work is underway on 28 television stations.

"The construction of 20 [relay stations] will be completed over the next two months," said Haileab Abreha, deputy manager for media technology at the agency. The agency is also awaiting delivery of equipment for the digitisation of its television broadcasts at a cost of 272.4 million Br. The order was given to Polytechnology, a Chinese company in November 2009. Some of the equipment has already reached port, Haileab told Fortune.

Radio equipment, worth 16.9 million Br, has also been ordered from Germany, and will be shipped in two weeks. When the television broadcast is digitised, it will have eight channels, and clients will have to buy decoders to access the broadcasts. "One decoder will cost 20 to 30 dollars. We will soon announce to the public when to buy decoders," said Haileab.

Technology choices were made earlier with the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST). Now there is a taskforce, composed of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency (ICTDA), and the Broadcasting Agency to decide when the transfer from analogue to digital broadcasts should be made.

An editorial task force from ERTA, yet to be set up, will look at the content of all the channels that will be available through the digital broadcast. An issue being considered related to this is whether the broadcasts in various languages should have their own independent channels or continue as they are on the national ETV broadcast.

The 200 million Br approved was allocated from budget reserves, as enhancing media coverage is in the interest of the government, an official at MoFED told Fortune. However, not enough money was left of the 1.06 billion Br the ministry had set aside as a reserve at the beginning of the fiscal year to supply the full amount requested.

Seven hundred fifty million Br was already reserved for salary increases and 149 million Br was already given to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). The government is also preparing to buy 200 automobiles using money from this reserve. So far, only money given to the NEBE has been spent.

Addis Fortune 25th January 2010