Minister Faith Muthambi - []

According to Government will announce the switch-off date for analogue broadcasting when more than 80% of households have been migrated to digital broadcasting, says Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

“To make digital migration a success, we will work with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and National Treasury to come up with a mechanism on how Sentech can be assisted to maintain two network systems (dual illumination) costs.

“We will announce the analogue signal switch-off date when more than 80% of the TV-owning households have been migrated to digital TV,” the Minister said while tabling the Department of Communication’s Budget Vote in Parliament on Friday.

The world is going through a television revolution of migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting. Digital broadcasting works by translating sound and pictures into digital data rather than analogue waveforms. Digital broadcasting technology is superior to analogue broadcasting technology, with the latter being phased out worldwide.

Minister Muthambi said her department finalised the digital terrestrial TV (DTT) (SANS 862) and direct-to-home (DTH) (SANS 1719) standards in April 2015 and integrated digital TV (IDTV) (SANS 10352) standard in September 2015.

In July 2015, the department launched public awareness campaigns to educate citizens about the need to migrate and the benefits of the broadcasting digital migration programme.

The launch was followed by a series of digital migration izimbizo that the Minister led across the country.

In August 2015, a conformance regime to ensure that set-top boxes (STBs) and related accessories are produced in South Africa was finalised. It is currently being used to test whether the STBs comply with the approved South African DTT standards. A panel of 26 manufacturers was established to produce STBs and related accessories such as antennae and satellite dishes.

“The implementation of the long-awaited digital migration has started in the Northern Cape. The SKA [Square Kilometre Array] bound community of Keimos has become the first beneficiary of the DTH and DTT set-top boxes,” says Minister Muthambi.

She said they will continue to work with the Department of Science and Technology to ensure that the Northern Cape SKA area is covered on or before the June 2016 deadline.

“The registration process made it possible for us to launch the distribution and installation of the government-subsidised STBs and related accessories on 17 December 2015 in Keimoes, under the theme “Zwi khou itea” (it is happening) in South Africa.

“We also announced 1 February 2016 as the commencement of the dual illumination performance period,” she says.

Expanding DTT reach

The Minister said they have also noted a slow registration take-up by citizens due to the TV licence requirement and insufficient funding to conduct public and consumer awareness campaigns.

However, together with the SABC management, she said they have since resolved to delink the TV licence requirement from the STB subsidy registration process.

“I have also instructed the SABC to clean up the TV licence database in order to have accurate and reliable information on who owns a TV set in South Africa to enable proper infrastructure planning.”

“I am also making a clarion call for all citizens to pay their TV licences to enable the SABC to discharge its public broadcasting service mandate with ease.”

“We wish to reiterate that the success of the DTT project across the globe is heavily dependent on the implementation of a focused and properly funded education and awareness campaign.”

“It is with great concern to note that the DTT public awareness campaign and related activities, such as the call centre, are not funded for the 2016/17 financial year. However, there are temporary mechanisms in place to address the funding shortfall in the interim,” she says.

STB procurement concerns dealt with

The Minister also informed the House that she has acted decisively on the allegations regarding the inappropriate procurement of STBs and related accessories.

“We have received a final forensic report on the Supply Chain Management process from National Treasury and once we have studied the findings and recommendations thereof, we will inform the public of the necessary actions to be taken,” she said.