By Albertina Nakale
WINDHOEK – The migration of State broadcaster, Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) has seen households, who have for years failed to pay TV licences, opt to subscribe to the DStv’s cheaper package, GO-TV, in a bid to avoid paying outstanding annual licence fees and accummulated penalties.
Since NBC went digital end of January, 2015, households are required to buy DTT decoders and to purhcase one a customer needs to present a valid TV licence.
At exactly 20h00 on January 31 2015, the NBC successfully migrated from analogue to digital terrestrial television in Windhoek, Rehoboth and Okahandja. It is the first phase in the migration process and NBC would eventually move to other towns in the coming months.
The migration means NBC television viewers who do not have a DTT decoder no longer receive a signal to access the NBC 1 television channel. The DTT decoder is also required to watch free-to-air stations such as One Africa and TBN.
Households that have never paid TV licences or simply refuse to do so have opted for GO-TV, which comes in two forms of subscription of N$60 or N$90 monthly, while its decoder costs N$500.
“I decided to go buy my GO-TV decoder in Pick n Pay because it has more and nicer channels compared to NBC viewing. I saw no need to buy the NBC decoder since GO-TV also has One Africa and NBC channels,” said a house-owner in Otjomuise.
The homeowner rents out four bedrooms in his house, and each of the tenants has subscribed to GO-TV, all in a bid to avoid paying TV licences.
Ockert Jansen, the NBC’s commercial manager for DTT was, however, adamant that households moving to GO-TV subscription do not pose a competition challenge to NBC’s licence collection efforts. “Not at all. GO-TV is not and was never part of NBC competition in terms of DTT,” said Jansen.
“We are a public broadcaster with a public mandate to offer free-to-air television. The NBC decoder is a once-off payment and not a monthly subscription. NBC is not doing this exercise for money, so revenue is not at the heart of our objective, which is to ensure that people who were previously able to watch analogue are now able to watch digital. It is not a commercial project,” he stressed.
Jansen says it is really up to customers to choose whether to buy the NBC or GO-TV decoder. “It is up to them, we will not hold any grudges or convince people. It is up to consumers to decide to buy a decoder of their choice,” he said.
The NBC postponed its initial plans to switch off its analogue transmitter on December 15, 2014, to January 31, 2015, to give more viewers a chance to buy the DTT decoder.
Jansen noted the NBC started a vigorous campaign encouraging people to purchase a decoder and renew their television licences.
Earlier, Jansen said the NBC currently covers 66.6 percent of the population with its DTT footprint.
Considering that there are 250 000 television licence holders countrywide and that some people have more than one television set, Jansen noted that it is difficult at this point to give an exact figure of how many people have not migrated to digital television yet.
Oshakati, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Otjiwarongo and the surrounding towns and villages are next in line, as the NBC will switch off those towns’ analogue transmitters on a date to be announced soon.
“We have to run a systematic switch-off like we rolled-out our switch-on plan in 2012. The coastal towns will follow and then the northern Namibia towns. We have to ensure people are well-informed. Windhoek consumers were well-informed before we switched off. Our campaign ran for about three months,” Jansen noted.
Although, many heeded the call to purchase the digital decoder and pay the television licence some also waited for the last minute to buy the decoder as well as pay the licence.
The switch-off is part of the country’s move to meet the International Telecommunications Union’s digital migration deadline, which is June this year.