After using analogue television for over 16 years, The Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA) in consultation with three cable operators and other relevant stakeholders decided to make a switch from analogue to digital broadcasting. The work began in June 2018 and so far BICMA has missed three deadlines to migrate from analogue to digital transmission.
BICMA is confident that it will make the switch from analogue television to digital broadcasting by 1st June 2019, the officiating Director of BICMA, Wangay Dorji said during the press conference on 9th May, 2019.
BICMA wanted to have analog transmission cut off by 31st December 2018 and by 1st January 2019; they wanted Thimphu to be the first place to be digitalized. However, towards the later process of digitalization, as the cable operators has requested the government for time extension, BICMA was instructed by the government to provide time extension of one month.
As there were many issues related to digitalization process, the cable operators asked for another time extension and the second time extension was given to them up to 28th February that is another one month.
On 1st March BICMA was ready to switch from traditional analogue to digital and even cable operators were ready to comply with the directive of authority but BICMA wanted peripheral places like Chamgang, Hontsho, Yoesophang, Dodena and Kabisa to be connected.
May 31st is the last time extension and by 1st June Thimphu will be digitalized and BICMA assured that it will not be delayed further.
Wangay said, “One of the reasons why people are not willing to switch to digital is because people are not adequately advocated, people were not informed about the benefits of the digital, people did not know why set up box is required and why current analog is an issue”.
He said, “We have done extensive advocacy and we have targeted rural areas like Chamgang in Dagala gewog, Yoesopang and Hontsho in Chang gewog and Dodena and Kabisa in Kawang gewog. It was important to target rural areas because unlike commercial areas, people in rural areas were resisting the change as they were misinformed about the benefits and impacts of digitalization. By seeking the help of gewog official, BICMA was able to gather the crowd and inform the villagers about the digitalization process”.
The cable operators are receiving signals using DTH (Direct-to-Home) television services and DTH service is in KU (Kurtz Under) band. With digitalization, we will have our own content provider, Multi Service Operator (MSO) with the mandate to provide content to our cable operator. At present, our cable operators either negotiate directly with Indian content provider or use Dish because of which we have so many issues.
Wangay said, “The distribution of cable television channel in the country is not equal, there are around 56 channels in Thimphu but there are only around 9 to 10 channels in Trashiyangtse of which only half is paid while others are free. With MSO, distribution will be even and in this way, we will be able to maintain the standard television channel in the country. Every part of the country will have same number of channels”.
He said, “With the switch to digital cable system, consumer rights can also be enhanced. A digital cable subscriber has to pay the money only for the services it avails. A Subscriber has to pay Nu 300 by the end of the month whether he or she watches all the channels or not or get the TV signal”.
He also said, “With the analogue, most of the channels and the content of the television is in Indian language but now we are planning to provide Bhutanese content television because television has huge impact on us especially on children as lot of things are learnt from television. BBS being a monopoly, they charge a lot for showing just one show and its expensive for us”.
“Once we start implementing it in Thimphu, we will do it in phase wise for other Dzongkhags as well but there is a question of whether people in rural people can afford a set up box which cost around Nu 1000 to 1500 or not but if there are genuine people who wants it even though, they are not able to afford it, then there is possibility that we might have to provide subsidies. We are working on it’’, he added.