Convergence is a phenomenon brought about by the Digital Age which involves the integration of various technological systems. As a result, media companies are able to convey video, text, or audio signals using the same connection, whether it is fiber-optic or wireless, or wired (MBC, 2012). In broadcasting, interactive television is the result of convergence between television and various interactive technologies for example, the exchange of information between the sender and receiver. The aim of this convergence is to involve the viewers with the channel being viewed and promote participation.
With technological advancements integrative television is able to converge cable or fiber-optic lines with computers and TV. As a result, audio and video signals are now digital, which means that they are conveyed to home PCs and TV conversion-boxes through high-speed networks. This enables the viewer to respond to the broadcaster. Due to convergence, there are novel services which are available. A notable example is Video-on-Demand (VOD), which allows the broadcaster to offer the viewer movies to viewers for 24 hours with the ability to rewind or fast forward (MBC, 2012). Another facility is the near VOD, where the viewer is able to access movies at 15-20 minutes, however with no ability to rewind or fast forward. Other services include interactive news broadcast programming, video games, educational programs, and shopping services. Interactivity may also allow the viewer to actually influence the program being aired which may involve real-time voting. The number of votes may influence whether a show continues to be aired or not (MBC, 2012).
With convergence, the future of broadcasting is much brighter as it offers viewers higher levels of satisfaction derived from their viewing experience. The introduction of interactivity has led to the older form of analog broadcasting being phased out (Cave, 2006). Many broadcasters are now switching, or planning to switch to the digital platform. For broadcasters, this switch is favorable because it reduces the costs of maintaining analog systems involving fuelling and running these systems. One major concern associated with this switch is the cost of setting up the equipment for the broadcaster, and that of possessing new digital TV boxes for the viewers. Many countries have set target dates for the switch over into digital broadcasting. For example, the target date for the European Union is 2012 with an end date of 2015; while the end date for the United States was in 2009 (Cave, 2006). Since making this switch for households is a slow process, many countries have to offer subsidies to encourage viewers to acquire digital boxes. Other viewers may simply not be interested in the benefits accorded by digital TV.
In the developing world, interactive broadcasting is complicated by a lack of infrastructure. Many broadcasting companies operate on analog systems and would require to first to convert their systems into digital before they work on connecting the rest of the region. These countries have to import these equipments, with the added expense of high tax rates. This reduces the buying capacity greatly. Furthermore, residents in these countries are largely poor and may not be able to bear the cost of the digital switchover. In regions where accessing basic commodities may be difficult, the residents may not be able to afford the cost of acquiring set-top boxes (STBs)
Cave M. (2006). Spectrum Management and Broadcasting: Current Issues. Communications & Strategies, (62): 19
Domininck J. (2009). The Dynamics of Mass Communication. New York: McGraw Hill Publishers
The Museum of Broadcast Communications (2012). Interactive Television. Available at http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=interactivet