September 24th 2015 is the set date by the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Indotel) to make the definitive transition to digital television, a process already in motion in several countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Peru, Great Britain, Canada and South Africa to name a few.
To this day 15 countries have made the complete change to digital standard, a format whose compression type, converts the signal into 1 and 0 (binary code), it allows not just clearer images but additional information that enriches the viewer experience. It is also a fact that this signal is not affected by atmospheric conditions nor by the distance that can be between the receiver and the point of transmission.
Dominican Republic is part of the myriad of countries that are in the implementation process of the digital system, becoming an issue since in 2005 the United States announced its own transition date, better known as analogical shut down. Back then the Federal Commission of Communications decided that by February 17th 2009 all analogical transmissions should cease, but the analogical shutdown did not start until June 12th 2009.
While USA entered the digital television era, the Indotel analyzed the issue in depth with local actors, establishing the legal and technical frame. At the same time the last two years were dedicated to the analysis of the current four systems around the world: ATSC (USA), ISDB-T (Japan), DVB-T (Europe) and DMB-T/H (China). Junior Hernández of Duarte 101 explains [ES]:
A little over a year ago the topic of digital television was introduced in our country, because of the United States Congress’ approval of the elimination of analogical broadcasting by television networks.
After a series of technical meetings, conferences and tests by channel 4 (CERTV), the Indotel announced that it finally has reached a consensus on the standard that will be use for Dominican digital television. ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee), developed in the 90`s decade by a company that had as a goal to define the digital and HD specifications for the American market.
Being the case that analogical television in Dominican Republic actually is broadcast on NTSC, also originated in the US, it seems natural that the ATSC has been the choice for digital transition. After all there is a great technological tradition and understanding of the standards used in US, which are preferred by local industry, as exposed by the 407-10 statute, which contains the decision.
Now that the standard is defined, there are great expectations among technology followers, but at the same time there are doubts of how the transition is going to be, just as SFadul expresses in Choza Digital [ES]:
It's going to be very interesting to live this transition that in the US was not easy or accessible to everybody, because last year, there were so many people with analogical TV (big ones!) that the logistic to supply the digital converter to the users was somewhat traumatic. The government should encourage the acquisition of digital televisions during this 5 year period; because if the current rate of adoption continues, by august 2015 we'll have too many Dominicans with old televisions.
Unlike the US, where the issue had a lot of presence in the media, even its own website, the information regarding the process in Dominican Republic reaches the audience from time to time, mainly when important decisions are made like the announcement of the adoption of the ATSC standard. Joan Guerrero echoes this situation in his blog [ES]:
I remember very well when the debate began about what system we would use twelve months ago, and was saddened because I could not find much information in the traditional media about this issue.
Another issue that worries many Dominicans is the implication of the change from analogical to digital. Junior Hernández puts it clearly in the article [ES] that he wrote for Duarte 101 [ES] last year, when Indotel started its first steps in this process.
… However, having digital television means to have a TV set that can support this type of signal, or to use the converter that allows it, which costs around US$10.00. Let's see the case of a family struggling to make RD$200 or RD$300 per day for food, being forced to invest in the device to continue to enjoy one of the most used entertainment media of our country.
On June 12, 2009, the day the USA went digital, I turned off my television set. It has been a cold, dark box ever since. I even unplugged it because, as you may know, the “instant on” consumes almost as much electricity as the fully alive set. Some day, when I want the space, the set will be put out for the garbage collection.
My life since then is better. I now read at least one book a week, sometimes, two. My local Public Library has all I want for free. I get to bed earlier, sleep better and wake up earlier, with the result that I have more energy, as well as more time to put that energy to use.
True, I do not know anything about any television program. I have no idea who is on American Idol, or even if that noisy, ridiculous program is still on the air – and I don’t care. It was artificial excitement with no real meaning for my genuine life. I have not seen a time-wasting, loud, intelligence-insulting television commercial in all that time. At election time I have not heard a single political lie or slander.
I get my news off the Internet from sources like news.google.com that offer me 4,500 newspapers and web sites from around the world, updated automatically every few minutes (which is how I found the web page above).
I listen to more music on the radio. I go out and see bigger, better movies on the big screen. I save a huge amount of money that might have gone to paying for cable and pay-per-views events.
So, to countries considering going digital, I encourage you. A large number of your population will abandon television entirely. Both they and your society will be better for it.