To our readers, you may have noticed that DTV Pilipinas has spoken out against the increasingly widespread practice of conditional access on digital terrestrial television, as it limits viewers’ choices of programming and forcing them to purchase network-branded products for the sake of loyalty and maximizing their bottomline.

This practice has been initiated by ABS-CBN when they unveiled their TVplus product in 2015, this is presumably to fast-track the transition to DTT and has the advantage of exclusive channels, although it lacks the other features of other boxes such as HDMI capability. It has since sold around 4 million boxes, and since it is still available at a limited scope (which is Mega Manila, Central Luzon, Northern Luzon, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Southern Mindanao), maybe it is time for them to rollout their DTT service on other areas, as they must have made lots of money, right?

Then came Solar with their own dongle which is yet to hit the market. They have made their cable channels available on DTT, yet only if you purchase their product. This could be a way for Solar to get even with ABS-CBN as a result of the carriage disputes surrounding NBA coverage, but Solar must have forgotten that DTT is supposed to be free TV and NOT cable, right? This only adds to the confusion, thanks to ABS-CBN’s marketing which says, para kang nag-cable na walang monthly fee. Inaalaka tuloy ng tao na para ngang cable, eh hindi naman!

Let’s not forget GMA Network’s long-promised dongle, and has since changed its configuration to add encyrpted channels to its lineup. They may be forgetting that they have yet to expand their DTT footprint in regional areas, like Cebu and Davao, as they have promised, right?

With the major networks busy at commercializing DTT, other networks have begun embarking on expanding their footrprint to benefit viewers and markets longing to enjoy benefits of the new emerging medium. Globe-affiliated BEAM has already added Iloilo and Baguio to their digital footprint (in addition to Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao) while state-run PTV began conducting tests in President Duterte’s hometown of Davao City. The Manila Broadcasting Company has also began to broadcast via digital in Metro Cebu (which I will look forward to watching via my DTT-capable phone once I return there for another vacation, God-willing), and local station eMedia began broadcasting in Zamboanga, not to mention Kakampi TV’s broadcasts in Digos City and Tarlac.

In a short span of two years being an enthusiast of digital terrestrial television, I have since monitored the developments in our ongoing transition, whether a new market or station has began broadcasting, or whether we will be able to complete the transition ahead of timeframe we have set, which is the year 2023, especially since September 2017, when INC TV and NET 25, the television networks affiliated with the Iglesia ni Cristo, of which I’m a proud member, began broadcasting on DTT after a few years’ absence despite being one of the trailblazers in bringing ISDB-T, which is the DTT standard we use, into the country, alongside then NBN-4. INC TV and NET 25 also holds the distinction of being able to broadcast two high-definition channels in a single frequency (though the Adventist-affiliated Gateway is also able to do such through Hope Channel and GNN). The improved picture quality is a huge boost in the Church’s propagation efforts so I will root for the expansion of the Church’s digital TV broadcast in other areas as well, though it is for the Church Administration to decide.

Looking back, with the widespread practice of encryption and the sale of network-branded boxes, they seem to be looking for short-term benefits like profits over short-term gains. Naysayers may still argue, baka gusto mo malugi or other type of defense, well, other countries may also practice encryption, but not as brazen as this! DTT is free TV, contrary to claims over somewhere over there which we will not mention. DTT’s advantage of more program choices must not be exploited for profit, as it hampers the long-term benefit for viewers and the industry in general. The boxes may be helping in fast-tracking expansion, but detrimental in the long-term.

The government and other broadcasters disadvantaged by the practice must join forces, in order for the practice stopped, for the benefit of the viewing public.

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