Samoa's switch to digital TV hits snag

The Government's plan to switch off  analog at the end of January so Samoa could move to digital TV has hit a snag, with delays expected.

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.), Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, said the delay is to allow for all broadcasters to connect to the digital platform. 

Afaamsaga said the new system also needs testing before the country turns off their analog television sets. 

“There is still one T.V. station that is waiting for their equipment and once they are connected we will have to test the system,” Afamasaga told the Samoa Observer during an interview. 

“We will use this period [January] to test the system but it appears to me that the system is working well. 

“Once we are confident the platform is in place and runs smoothly then the decision will be made to switch off [analog T.V.] very soon.” 

Apia Broadcasting Limited that runs TV3 is yet to connect to digital T.V. 

Owner Seiuli Nicholas Caffarelli said their equipment is on the way but it should arrive for in time for the switch.

He said the orders couldn’t be placed earlier due to the festive season holidays. 

Other T.V. Stations: TV1, EFK TV, Catholic church T.V. station and Kingdom T.V. are already viewing their programmes on the digital T.V. 

Member of the public can switch to digital T.V. by purchasing a digital box from available stores for $55 tala. 

The Minister of Communication said the platform will give all broadcasting outlets equal rights and is non-discriminatory. 

“Every T.V. station will have the same reach of coverage in the country and same potential in terms of sales,” said Afamasaga. 

“In terms of implementation we are moving really quickly to achieve it and hopefully will increase local programmes. 

“That is the whole idea is to get more local programmes for our viewers.” 

He added by the time the digital T.V. is ready the coverage around the islands should attain 100 per cent. 

Attempt to get a comment from Samoa Digital Communication Limited, Fa’amausili Andrew Ah Liki, was unsuccessful. 

The controversial policy saw one of the church television station pulling the plug on its broadcast in November last year. 

The BYU TV station made the decision to forfeit its broadcasting license as it was not “feasible” to comply with the transition initiative. 

The withdrawal from the T.V. station and concerns raised by the broadcasters on the affordability of the switch saw the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi intervening in the matter. 

Following a meeting with the T.V. operators in November, Tuilaepa ordered the Regulator to revoke an order entailing a $23,000 monthly tariff payment. 

After negotiations with the Digital T.V. and T.V. industry, the tariff was negotiated and reduced to $18,000 per month for a trial basis of 6 months. 

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