Tuesday , 31 January 2023
Private media group owners had a skull session and jointly protested at the local government's lack of transparency over some of its, no challenged initiatives deemed to affect local commercial broadcasting as a whole. Their joint statement addressed the emergence of the new television and radio stations answerable to the city council of Antananarivo, the irrational assignment of broadcasting licenses, the striking unequal of treatment in face of treasury and the common resistance to a forced switchover to digital broadcasting. Even though his name was not mentioned at any time, the Minister of Communication may consider his very authority as challenged in this issue.

Easy going regarding licensing, unfair competition, botched up transition to digital TV: storm brewing over corporate media

The ANTANANARIVO TV & RADIO channels are denied warm welcome by their peers on the Malagasy spectrum. Media group owners harshly criticized the channels created by the city council of Antananarivo, particularly their alleged failure to serve public interest as they are expected to. Mass media channel owners denounced bias and schemes in the allocation of new broadcasting licenses. The joint statement pointed out that the previous ruling power simply boxed 80 licenses out back in 2010, whereas the new president now in charge decided to keep the allocation of broadcasting licenses on standby. “The license allocation process basically originates from a tender, but the rule seemingly does not apply to ATV and Antananarivo Radio” protested media owners dreading the pending butterfly effect. “An unbelievably high number of channels is likely to pop up, if things keep going the way they do.”
But why ganging up all of a sudden against public service channels at all? Well, public broadcasting seems to be turned into a mere covert to get a broadcasting license, but in the end coming up to challenge commercial broadcasting channels. “These so called public interest channels are actually competing with commercial broadcasters,” insisted Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy from Free FM. Entertainment programs happen to serve as untold call to advertisers. The Ministry of Communication caught the ATV once red handed and issued a mere warning. The head of department had argued by then that this television station with public interest status was not allowed to stream either movies or songs. This warning seemed to be no cause for concern to the City Council, which ceremoniously opened its stations and keeps airing whatever it wants to, no strings attached. “Our duty of educating people commands us to capture their focus at first.” argued the stations’ heads. “We pay taxes from the money we earn,” said Nicolas Rabemananjara from the TV Plus group. Public interest channels actually do not, and should not earn anything. In addition to this, media group owners also denounced the unequal treatment when it comes to the collection of taxes on advertisement.

Bringing the digital switchover to a standstill in the final straight line
Part of the claims laid by mainstream media group owners is also the digital broadcasting switchover process. “They force the switchover process but do not bother addressing those, who have to implement it” protested Mija Randriatsarafara from the Kolo Tv station. The government extensively used the national television channel to let this mandatory conversion of analog broadcasting into the airing of digital signals know. Every channel will have to rely on a Chinese contractor ready for action. Still, the commercial stations owners do not buy the success of the operation yet. “Which status will the Chinese television enjoy?” they wonder. The main concern in this issue widely focuses on the operation’s costs, bearing in mind that La Reunion Island already has to pay $ 22,000 in broadcast rights. “The Malagasy State will already have to cash $ 189 million out to switch analog signals off and move to digital broadcasting. Is that it a priority at all?” challenged Nicolas Rabemananjara. He found no viable reason to take a 09 months long dash in completing a process which took no less than 6 years to a heavy weight like Germany.
The transition to digital signal is a big money business indeed, for each household will have to purchase the appropriate adapter expected to cost MGA100,000 each. A million units mathematically provides with a turnover of  MGA 100 billion, among others to adapter provider StarTimes. Fine incentive to have the job done and the deal done before June 2015, is it not? Television channels will theoretically have their share of advantages as well, for they will access national audience without having to cash a penny out for a powerful transmitter or challenge justice. The controversy revolves about financial terms all alone. The transition to digital technology was formally engaged back in 2006, after Madagascar committed itself in the Regional Agreement of the International Telecommunication Union to switch UHF signals in June 2014, then VHF signals in June 2020. In December 2013, Harry Rahajason, former Minister of Communication, and his staff renewed this commitment on behalf of the state by laying a signature down on a convention encompassing the installation and operation of a unique digital signal transmission network. The Chinese company StarTimes is granted the provider monopoly. Even though this low cost company is supposed to put low costs through, Malagasy mainstream media group owners keep dreading price conflicts and upcoming downturns for their businesses.