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TV shopping gets complicated with digital switchover

Published:Monday | April 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Steven Jackson, Business Reporter

Government fears that a bustling business may develop in the selling of new widescreen televisions with analog technology dumped from developed digitalised markets for cheap sale in Jamaica.The concerns arose amid local preparations to switch over to digital TV starting 2015.

Consumers must therefore take care when buying new TVs to ensure they are not based on analog technology, as they will be useless in three years, according to information minister, Senator Sandra Falconer.

"Our concern is that some merchants may dump analog TVs on Jamaica from jurisdictions that phased out analog TVs. Consumers have to be aware of the TVs they will buy because they won't be able to use analog TVs after the switch-over," Falconer told Gleaner Business.

Jamaicans are mostly ignorant to the implications of the switch-over and Government plans to start an education campaign "soon".

Additionally government agencies including the Anti-Dumping Commission and the Consumer Affairs Commission will monitor the TV market in order to protect consumers during the switch-over period, she said.

Calls to marketing representatives at large retailers Courts and Singer went unanswered.

Last week, the National Digital Switchover Committee announced plans to conduct a study on the social and economic cost of the digital switchover. It will cost J$3 million to conduct the study, Falconer said.

Digital TVs usually contain a label identifier on the set; no antennas; and no staticotherwise referred to as snow--on channels without signals.

The value to consumers is increased channel options and newer, more efficient broadcast technology.

Our engagement must therefore be focused around getting public input and ensuring Jamaicans will anticipate and take full advantage of the broad and enriched media experience that digital transmission brings. This must be characterised of course by high technical quality; new features delivered through utilisation of multimedia applications; and high levels of interactivity in step with the Jamaican culture, demand and vision Falconer said in press release announcing the 2015 timeline.

Digital television involves coding video and audio signals into a stream of computerised data. It comes with the switching-off of analog transmissions on a planned basis, enforced by government.

Jamaica which will lead the anglophone Caribbean in its switch to digital TV, said Falconer.

Falconer said in the press release that attention will be given to the cost benefit analysis of the digital switchover process; the estimation of the value of the released spectrum for the switchover; cost points and options for funding; technology selection, access and usability by persons with disabilities or other vulnerable groups, and environmental considerations.

"The study will inform us on the steps needed to go forward," she explained.The Jamaican Government has also applied to the International Telecommunications Union for funding to establish a digital switchover project unit.

The Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) has previously argued that the switchover will prove costly for companies especially the licensed three free-to-air television operators -- CVM, TVJ and LOVE 101 TV.

They will have to acquire new production equipment, including cameras and data-gathering systems, studio facilities, and transmission devices.

Comparatively, the estimated 28 radio entities and licensed cable operators are less affected due to their separate operating platforms.

Digital switchover has already occurred in a number of western countries. The United States completed its switchover in 2009 and the United Kingdom will complete its switchover this year.