Digital migration may be about a clearer picture, but Malawi’s strides just got grainy.
The country risks facing isolation in digital broadcasting having failed to switch off analogue television transmission by yesterday.
In 2006, United Nation (UN) member States agreed to switch over to digital television broadcasting by June 17 2015 for improved pictures and sound quality as well as efficient use of the spectrum.
But the grim reality was clear on Tuesday night when Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nakhumwa travelled to Mzuzu for a symbolic switch-off of analogue transmitters.
Mzuzu City mayor’s representative, councillor Denis Moyo, might have talked about “a dream fulfilled”, but the hugely awaited shift to digital terrestrial television (DTT) as the high-powered switch-off ceremony ended with just speeches and boozing at Sunbird Mzuzu.
The digital and analogue television systems continued running concurrently when the cut-off day dawned—thanks to the minister’s eleventh-hour failure to make a midnight trip to Msongwe Transmission site to shut down the old transmitters as both his ministry and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) had earlier told the media.
By staying put at the hotel, Nankhumwa did not only delay the phasing out of the grainy pictures but also watered down what he termed “the magic moment” that would show “the difference in television broadcasting and how Malawians experience it”.
Surprisingly, Nankhumwa and other dignitaries remained at Sunbird Mzuzu until midnight when they popped champagne and toasted to the switch-off which never was.