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Thu 29 Jul 2010 04:00 AM

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Questionable quality

The World Cup debacle should serve as a dire warning. Audiences had little to no interest in the actual source of the problems.

Questionable quality

The World Cup debacle should serve as a dire warning. Audiences had little to no interest in the actual source of the problems. Al Jazeera, as the customer facing broadcaster, was the target of the criticism, regardless of how legitimate that criticism was. Its response was defiant and in no way conciliatory.

The World Cup problems were an isolated incident. There are ongoing problems that are far more significant.

The quality of service in the Middle East is well below par. The lack of accurate data in most electronic programming guides continues. A vast number of the region's channels are broadcast with poor quality video and frequently tinny, popping audio. Customer service is notoriously bad. A number of readers (including yours truly) have had frustrating experiences swapping out set top boxes. The number of missed appointments for the pick-up of the old box is approaching double figures in my case with drivers repeatedly going to the wrong address or failing to show up at all.

Call centres are unresponsive and all too frequently, uninformed.

Getting connected to a pay TV service can be just as difficult and inevitably billing starts well ahead of the actual connection date.

When all of this information is compiled, even the low pay TV penetration in the region seems miraculous rather than disastrous.

Many of these problem services; billing, call centres and so on are outsourced by operators, so the message is clear, ask more from these partners or find new ones.

The audience is key to any objective of a TV station - commercial or otherwise. With the exception of some IPTV operators and networks pushing out HD channels, there has been little improvement in service in the last three years.

The quality of experience should be enticing people to shun piracy in favour of legitimate source of entertainment, not driving them toward it.

John Parneel is the editor of Digital Broadcast.

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