Digital Switchover

The digital switchover also called the digital television transition, or analog switch-off (ASO), is the process in which analog television broadcasting is converted to and replaced by digital television. This primarily involves the conversion of analog terrestrial television to digital terrestrial. However, it also involves analog cable conversion to digital cable, as well as analog to digital satellite.

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As the transition from analog to digital broadcasting became a reality in the developed world, the attention of academics, policy makers and practitioners is naturally turning to how developing countries like Pakistan can follow the same path of transition. Many countries in the global south have started examining the viability of what they call the “switchover” or the transition from analog to digital. Since most of the developed nations have been ahead of other countries across the globe in planning and implementing new technologies for the digital switchover, their experiences can serve as valuable case studies for others who anticipate the transition in the coming years. Analog to digital transition represents the most significant change to television broadcasting infrastructure in its history, with production, broadcasting, transmission and household reception all affected by the process. The transition from analog to digital TV will have the largest impact on media since the NTSC standard transitioned from black-and white to color technology. The switchover in developed countries to an advanced digital television system is not one that followed a simple trajectory in which consumers merely turned off a set of technologies one day, and turn on another system the next. The transition to digital television brings with it a complex political, economic and cultural transfer that is enmeshed in turmoil. Some of the problems range from political maneuverings to economic disincentives and cultural resistance. The effects of the switchover go well beyond the technical aspects. The switchover has complex social, political and economic implications since it impacts “all segments of the broadcasting value-chain, namely: content production, transmission and reception”.

We at Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan launch our Digital Switchover initiative with the aim to provide greater understanding of the challenges of digital switchover in Pakistan. Even though end users or viewers may be the final arbiters of digital TV adoption independent, in-depth, policy research on digital TV adoption carried out in Pakistan that takes the user’s perspective on policy making and regulatory issues is extremely rare which we aim to address with our initiative.