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South Africa’s digital television migration back to square one

The South African government has been struggling to put the pieces in place for migrating TV signals from analogue to digital. It’s been an arduous and fruitless process.

The international cut-off date for broadcasting in digital was June last year, and South Africa missed it. While some progress was made, it now seems that plans to migrate from analogue to digital in South Africa are back to square one.

The most recent issue was over the encryption of the state-supplied set-top boxes (STBs). Free-to-air broadcaster e.tv wanted the signals encrypted, and through a Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment yesterday, it was ruled that Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s unencrypted amendment to the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy was wrong.

“This legal victory will enable non-subscription TV broadcasters to protect quality programme from being pirated. This means South Africans will have the freedom to choose competitive, affordable, quality TV programming from a diversity of broadcasters,” said DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Mariane Shinn, in a media statement.

Shinn also added that the tender process for STBs needs to be restarted, pushing South Africa further back in the time frame for the switch over.

“Minister Muthambi must now, with maximum speed, redo the tender process to procure the competitively priced, encrypted STBs from as many local electronics manufacturers as possible so qualifying poor households can receive the decoders, fast-tracking analogue switchoff,” said Shinn.

The court ruling was a win for e.tv, and any further legal action from the government over the matter will only delay the process further.

“I urge Minister Muthambi not to contemplate further legal action as this would merely exacerbate South Africa’s much-delayed switchoff of analogue broadcasting signals so the airwaves can be released for mobile broadband communications,” Shinn said.

[Image – CC by 2.0/the autowitch]

 

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