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Where does Colombia point with DTT?

The development of new content based on DTT has been a constant concern in the Colombian academy when it comes to the new challenge that lies ahead. But not everything is positive.

By: 
Luis Fernando Gutierrez Cano
Luis Jorge Orcasitas Pacheco 

Undoubtedly, Digital Terrestrial Television in Colombia is a tool that can contribute to the reduction of the country's digital divide; however, to reach a point of total accessibility and usability of this technology, it implies, among other matters, a series of expenses for the consumer, such as the purchase of new televisions that capture the digital signal or, failing that, the acquisition of decoders that allow analog televisions to be adapted for the new signal. 

And for the Colombian State in its implementation, as guiding principles to offer a universal service and with social equity, cover a large percentage of the population with the implementation and start-up of primary and secondary stations; allow the population access to technology with low costs; offer an optimal  service under technological platforms that guarantee quality content, as a contribution to the development of the so-called "Information and Knowledge Society"; in addition  to the use of current and new infrastructure. 

- Publicidad -

Obviously, there are also the other DTT agents in the country, who will also have to adapt, not only the technical infrastructure as such, but the organizational structures, thinking no longer as the analog medium that for many years has been television, but in a panorama in constant evolution, with increasingly demanding users and a much more complex commercial development, which will demand higher levels of innovation and creativity.

Impact on society and future developments
With the arrival of DTT in the country, there will inevitably be corporate movements that will generate alliances and strategies to guarantee the stability of the operators present in the sector. Likewise, a dynamic of synergies can be generated in the existing transmission networks, as well as in the contents, and the development of digital ecosystems that translates into a joint management of other platforms, such as mobile television and webstreaming. 

A constant fragmentation of audiences is also foreseen, oriented to thematic channels, increasingly specific and with increasingly identified users; hence, one of the most relevant aspects posed by the new business scenarios of DTT technology is the fact that the future business of television in Colombia will not focus exclusively on advertising revenues, since the medium will allow the emergence of other opportunities with are the case of Pay per view-PPV tools,  VOD (Video on Demand), interactivity, among others. 

Ready for change
The analog blackout in Colombia will have consequences in various sectors of the country, starting with the Colombian State itself and dependent agents; one of the efforts that must be made in this process of migration to digital must be aimed at preparing citizens, producers, filmmakers, Faculties of Communication and other agents, a process that is known as "digital literacy", since TVD and DTT will bring with them new protocols, new models and new habits of television consumption by the whole society. 

DTT and the Internet: social impact tools
Merging DTT and quality is not only referring to television content itself; there are other factors to take into account so that a final  result is given according to the expectations that are generated with this technology. The contents are undoubtedly important, but along with them we must also take into account other aspects such as economic, legal, ethical, among others, which will favor or prevent the development of a true  Quality Colombian television system. 

With the digital television service, many families in the country will have potential access to the Internet, making it a universal service that will be able to simplify  the services of the Information and Knowledge Society (SIC) to all people in a more effective and, possibly, more economical way. Bustamante (2001, p.62) points out four categories of channels that digital television can offer:

"New national and even regional and local generalist channels, different from the traditional ones. Thematic channels, increasingly "monographic" and adjusted by genres (cinema, entertainment, information, culture, sports, music, etc.), by themes and by target audiences," which includes women, children,  LGTBI collective, ethnic groups, etc. Channels oriented to hobbies (motoring, fishing, cooking), and increasingly linked to professional interests (lawyers, doctors, languages, etc.). Interactive or semi-interactive services, linked to thematic channels or services: tele banking, tele shopping, tele employment, tele education, travel, etc.".

- Publicidad -

From this perspective, the adoption and viability of TVD and DTT in Colombia depends on the interrelation  of four specific points: 1) Speed of the analog blackout, that is, compliance with the schedule proposed at the time by the CNTV and now in charge of the ANTV. 2) The attractive offer of content, both channels and complementary services (interactivity). 3) Democratization of the service (decoder plan). 4) Generation of income to the agents of the system (channels, operators, State).

Unknowns
Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) is a fact that has no setback. All Latin American countries have already defined their standard and the respective dates of the analog blackout,  but it is still necessary to turn on homes, so it is necessary to establish plans that incorporate DTT into the home as the first or second system and literate the population in access, use and appropriation of the same. 

It is also  necessary to create clear policies for the multiplexing of signals offered by DTT and  to establish the way in which these contents are going to be carried out, how to sustain them,  program them and regulate them within the framework of a digital environment. There are several unknowns that still remain to be solved on the road to digital ignition in Colombia.

The role of the Colombian university in DTT 
There are some reflections on DTT in Colombia, which must be articulated to different sectors such as the State, the company, the organized community, always  aimed at ensuring that digital ignition is successful in its development: 
1) The reconfiguration of the television scheme in the country (analog blackout in 2019).
2) The participation and democratization of citizens before the new demands of the television medium. 
3) The possibilities of Digital TV to contribute with proposals in  favor of the solution of educational, cultural, social, participatory and community problems of the nation and the regions. 
4) Strengthen the national, the regional and the local, with a more active and profound participation of the citizen before the environment and the decisions that affect it. 
5) The literacy of the public for the access, use and appropriation of the environment by citizens for the consolidation of democracy.
6) The training of teaching and research staff, and human resources in all areas of digital television.


Hence it is important to highlight that, since the 90s, the transformations initiated in previous decades have been consolidated in several countries of the world, especially in the generation of content and services in the audiovisual sectors, a situation that barely has a small beginning in Colombia, mainly in subscription television providers such as UNE, Claro-Telemex and Telefónica and satellite television (Direct TV), and some minor experiences of public and private channels, so there are not yet fully consolidated paths with a view to a true and effective conceptual and structural innovation that this new medium requires. 

In this sense, without a doubt that the Colombian University has a great possibility – as it has been doing so far – to link itself more categorically to the scaffolding of digital television, from an analytical, reflective, proactive and academic position, in order to support, for research purposes,  product development and training of human talent,  the phenomena of the media convergence of the XXI century, and the processes of interactivity and, in a certain way, become an entity that promotes  a democratic digitalization and continue to insist on television as a public service, a place for everyone and for all.  

- Publicidad -

Therefore, the commitment to the Colombian academy implies a series of efforts and, of course, challenges, at the moment of becoming a really effective, proactive and constructive  DTT agent within the framework of this wonderful experience that will mean for the country the change of the television paradigm: new looks, new organizational structures, new content, new ways of seeing, perceiving and building enriching television messages for all Colombians.

It is unquestionable then, the role that  Colombian universities have been developing in the current process of implementation of DTT in the country; Academic centers in all regions have been very aware of the progress of the schedule proposed by the National Television Authority, leading to the analog blackout in 2019. 

The main Colombian universities have been the epicenter of multiple days of socialization of the advances in the agenda,  linking both the university community and the general public, as a means  for society in general to be prepared to face the new challenge of the analog blackout. Likewise, many faculties of social communication and audiovisual media in the country are already working on their undergraduate and postgraduate curricula, to adapt and implement content related to digital television.  

Similarly, a fundamental aspect, such as the development of new content, has been  a constant concern in the Colombian academy when it comes to the new challenge that lies ahead. But not everything is positive, as Sánchez Rincón (2013) states, it is also undoubted that "there are few universities in Colombia that are approaching the issue of digital television from research. However, some projects of the School of Administration, Finance and Technological Institute, EAFIT; the University of the North; the Pontifical Bolivarian University of Medellín;  the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University of Bogotá; Universidad del Cauca and the  ICESI of Cali, have addressed aspects ranging from technology to the production of interactive content. But the connection to a macro research flow on DTT and the articulation of the particular findings in each case is still necessary. 

The challenge for the development of DTT in Colombia for Sánchez Rincón, is the achievement of cooperation between universities and regional channels. Although there are important advances, especially in cities  such as Bogotá, Medellín and Cali;   so far it has not been possible to establish a solid link between both agents, which seeks a strong and effective feedback between research on the audiovisual field and the development of content that is done from the academy and the experience of production in regional channels.

One of the most relevant experiences occurs in the city of Bogotá, where the regional channel, Canal Capital  , is working with private universities but in an integrated way, that is, breaking with the unitary production model of each university, for the development of projects that involve topics of greater coverage such as television series or the design of a children's strip.

Other important antecedents for this common project is what has been achieved by the Corporación Canal Universitario de Antioquia, (Canal U) where part of the programming is carried out by the university production centers of Medellín that bet on a local television, with different communicative treatments, and participatory contents under the perspectives of digital television. In the case of the northern region of Colombia, the regional channel Telecaribe is establishing production agreements with universities for the production of content for youth audiences. These are initial experiences that are already setting trends in a link that should be increasingly strong and constant between the academic world and the television world.

Contribution of the Pontifical Bolivarian University
Faced with  the training of qualified personnel for DTT, the commitment made by the Pontifical Bolivarian University of Medellín, an institution that recently formulated the Master's Degree in Digital Television, which seeks to offer graduate students a strategic vision of management, research and production processes, innovation, and media convergence, is highlighted. providing theoretical, research and production knowledge, for the development of the new social, economic and technical dynamics that digital makes possible. 

The program, a pioneer in Colombia, aims to train professionals with skills to address the developments and management of digital television, within communication processes that allow the appropriation and application of interdisciplinary knowledge to face a convergent environment and contribute to dynamize processes of social inclusion from the access, use and appropriation of technologies and new products applied to the field of television.

This Master's Degree in Digital Television is mainly aimed at professionals from different disciplinary areas, such as communication, engineering, education, design, administration; among others, that they work in the audiovisual sector in areas such as subscription television, internet, IPTV, IT / Informatics, video, audio or radio, or that act in the conception and application of planning and development strategies in digital television and its relationship with communication, information, education and new technologies. This program will begin in the first half of 2016.

The participation of universities in the generation of strategies for the culture of appropriation of DTT is clear and they will be key in the accompaniment of a process that  requires people to understand that they constitutionally have a right to access open television in the best possible quality of high definition and the possibilities of having a greater offer of channels, especially educational and cultural.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Editor
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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