The new year marks the passing of another digital television milestone. The 15 member countries of the Southern African Development Community agreed to a 31 December 2013 deadline to begin DTT broadcasting.

Of the countries in the group, Malawi is the only country known to have met the deadline, apart from two countries that began the process early. Mauritius started its transition as early as 1999 – the first African nation to be completely covered by DTT, however it was due to complete its analogue switch off at the end of last year. Tanzania began switchover, some say prematurely, exactly a year ahead of the SADC’s recommendation, on 31 December 2012.

The Vice-President of Malawi, Khumbo Kachali, said at the switch-on ceremony in the capital Lilongwe: “This will extend the signal coverage to areas within the country that were not previously covered so that more people can share the programmes.”

And he urged broadcasters to lift their game, reported the Nyasa Times: “The success of digital television will heavily depend on the quality of the programming by the broadcasters. The current analogue system requires that broadcasters produce and transmit more local content, but most of them failed to meet that requirement. The digital broadcasting era will place a greater demand on broadcasters to produce even more and high-quality local content,” said Kachali.

The worldwide ITU deadline to begin analogue switchoff is 17 June 2015.