15 March 2016 By Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova and Xhelal Neziri
Digitization of broadcasting was hoped by many in Macedonia to pave the way for new voices to enter the media market. Instead, a digital dictatorship was established.
The 35 residents of the village Novo Selo, in Demir Hisar municipality in southwestern Macedonia, do not have much choice on their TV sets. They learn about what is happening beyond their homesteads solely from the three channels aired by the country’s public broadcasting service, MRTV, including one parliamentary channel showing essentially what lawmakers discuss in Skopje, the country’s capital city.
People invested in new devices in anticipation of what was supposed to be a digital revolution. As of 1 June 2013, households with older models of TV sets in Macedonia had, in fact, to buy new devices to be able to capture TV signals as, according to the state plan for digital migration, transmission in analog signal was discontinued. In short, without a new device set owners would not have been able to watch TV anymore.
In Macedonia, a country in which most mainstream media are strictly controlled by the government, many people dreamed about what digital TV would bring them: not only new ways to search for programs, sparkling TV images and even the opportunity to shop online, but what swathes of viewers are missing most: more voices on television and better journalistic content.
But the people in Novo Selo are still denied even minimal benefits of digitization. And they are not alone.