Best practices for moving from analog to digital broadcasting

by Lindsay Kalter
Oct 30, 2018 in Multimedia Journalism

Television stations worldwide are continuing to shift from analog to digital broadcasting, a change providers say increases efficiency, frees up bandwidth and offers higher-quality television.

Nearly all countries are scheduled to make the move to digital broadcasting by June 2015, according to an International Telecommunication Union agreement cited in a report from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the African Media Initiative (AMI).

The report, authored by Knight International Journalism Fellow Meredith Beal, offers advice to help stations make a smooth transition to digital broadcasting:

Communicate with viewers

According to the guide, It's important to let the public know their three options: buy a set-top converter box, subscribe to a service with a cable or satellite provider, or buy a digital-ready television. Educate viewers using public service announcements, billboards, social media and news stories. "It is not possible to over-communicate with your viewers in raising their awareness about the migration and what they need to do," the report says.

Plan for a dual broadcast period

It's important to offer both types of broadcasting while kinks within the digital system are worked out. "Simultaneous broadcasting in both analog and digital for some time period is imperative," the report states. "You need to ensure viewers maintain access to television programing while you’re testing the quality and coverage of the digital transmission."

Set up a telephone hotline

According to the report, a hotline for viewers should be launched months before the transition is made, and should be maintained until the flow of calls tapers off. "No matter how much you and other stakeholders have promoted awareness, there always will be some who wait until the last minute or even later," the report says. "Make sure the call center has enough lines and is well staffed at switchover time."

Provide staff training

Stations should make sure their technical staff is well-versed in digital programming, the report says. "If the television station also will be a signal distributor, investment in staff training will be necessary," the guide says. "If the station outsources its engineering function, diligence is necessary to determine the state of readiness on the part of the engineering company or technical services vendor."

Conduct viewer surveys

Use surveys to gauge the audience's readiness, the guide suggests. Viewers should be asked to report whether they are fully ready, partially ready or not ready at all. Stations should pay most attention to the "not ready at all," group, "because one of the main concerns for the transition is for citizens to be able to access emergency information aired on television," the report says.

Image courtesy of the International Center for Journalists

You can read more tips from the report here.