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Satellite TV Enables Access to Meaningful Content for COVID Response in Africa

By | August 20, 2020

The Ethiopian Ministry of Education has partnered with UNICEF, Save the Children and SES to broadcast educational content on Ethiosat TV Platform. Photo: SES

The whole world has been completely disrupted by COVID-19 in the past six months, and unfortunately, the pandemic does not seem to be ending anytime soon. For some countries and regions, however, the level of disruption has been disproportionately severe, leaving many people stranded without reliable access to critical information in this time of crisis. This has emphasized the need for quality content and the role that satellite TV plays in providing widespread access to information.

This is especially so in sub-Saharan Africa where 59% of its 1.1 billion population live in often hard to reach rural areas. This, however, is where satellites are able to make the most difference and can play an informative role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The ubiquitous coverage provided by satellites ensures that vulnerable communities, no matter where they are situated, have access to critical news and information, through either Free-to-Air (FTA), Free-to-View (FTV) or Pay TV platforms.

We are broadcasting a FTA TV channel via SES satellites to millions of households across Africa. The channel – Fight COVID-19 – is broadcast on three satellites serving Africa and is dedicated to delivering reliable, essential and informative content about the COVID-19 pandemic. It broadcasts content that is aimed at providing underserved and rural communities with critical information about how to limit the spread of the virus. The content, which is provided courtesy of trusted organisations such as UNICEF and AFP, also aims to educate TV viewers about identifying COVID-19 symptoms and the recovery process.

In addition to providing informative content to curb the spread of COVID-19, it has also been rewarding to see how satellite TV has proven to be instrumental in facilitating continued learning amid COVID-19 school disruptions in various regions across the African continent.

In Ethiopia, SES supported the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MoE) and Regional Education Bureaus (REBs) in collaboration with UNICEF and Save the Children in launching nine new educational TV channels on Ethiosat – Ethiopia’s first dedicated TV platform – to enable the continuity of learning for primary and secondary school children who have been at home since the COVID-19 outbreak.

These educational channels, which are available to broadcast in eight languages across different regions in Ethiopia, are available exclusively on Ethiosat TV platform since June 1.

Similarly, in Ghana, a FTA not-for-profit TV channel called Joy Learning, which is dedicated exclusively to Ghanaian educational content, has also emerged as a critical source of learning for senior high school pupils across the West African sub-region while schools have been closed to combat the spread of the pandemic. While this channel was originally created to provide Ghanaian students with access to educational content while they are away from school — as a result of the double-track system — it has recently proven useful to all English-speaking West African countries who follow the West Africa Examination Council curriculum.

These initiatives are just some examples of how satellite is making a real difference in Africa right now. One of the key advantages of satellite is its incredible reach and ability to broadcast almost anywhere — even in the most remote and geographically-isolated locations. It does not require land-based infrastructure and can be deployed quickly and easily — making it the most reliable and cost-effective way to reach millions of people across a wide area.

Collaboration and strong partnerships are essential as a catalyst to bringing about change and improving the lives of millions of Africans. At SES we feel privileged to work with partners across the spectrum from governments to single channel operators and large corporations in between, and in so doing have the opportunity to give back to African society.

Clint Brown is the vice president of Sales and Market Development for SES Video in Africa.