Ethiopia Prepares for Digital Age

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New regulation for effective management are required with deadline for digital TV switch fast approaching.

Set-top boxes will be used to convert the digital television transmissions to analogue, until all televisions eventually become high definition televisions (HDTVs).

A draft bill for the regulation of the Internet, radio and television is being prepared by a steering committee, made up of the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA), the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT) and the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), along with the participation of the Ethiopia Radio & Television Agency.

The draft could be finalised and presented to the Council of Ministers before the end of the current fiscal year, says Leul Gebru, deputy director general of the EBA. The bill will regulate broadband internet, television and radio broadcasts, once the current analogue infrastructure has shifted across to digital. If ratified, the law could become effective as early as next year.

An authority, accountable to the MCIT, will be established in 2013/14, to administer the broadcasting network and radio waves, with EBA controlling the content transmitted on different channels, according to Leul. "We currently do not have radio wave protection from interventions," he said.

"The law is needed, in order to prepare for the management complexities that will follow digitisation," Leul said.

With the new law, additional licences are expected to be issued, with excess frequency given to ethio-telecom, Bedlu Weldemariam, mass media registration & licence director, at the EBA, told Fortune.

TV stations will be required to get a licence for each channel they have, unlike the current system, through which they operate under a single licence. A licence for mobile TV broadcasting will also begin to be granted after the ratification, according to Leul.

The digital technology will enable a single station to broadcast upwards of 22 channels, Leul said.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) agreed in 2006, in Geneva, to change all broadcasting frequencies to digital by 2015, with provisions until 2018 for Ethiopia and most African countries.

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