E-TV warned in a press statement today (2 November 2012) that the frequency migration plan recently published by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) presents major stumbling blocks to the sustainability of free-to-air broadcasters.
According to E-TV, broadcasters have rallied against the proposed changes. Broadcasters are particularly concerned by the absence of any policy inquiry into the future needs of terrestrial broadcasting and the implications for their business, E-TV said.
“A major concern is that ICASA is proposing the large-scale migration of TV broadcasters from the spectrum bands in which they have assignments without having considered the future spectrum needs of the TV industry or compensation for affected broadcasters,” said E-TV chief executive officer Marcel Golding.
E-TV said that it raised these concerns at ICASA’s public hearings into the draft Frequency Migration Plan on Thursday (1 November 2012).
The frequency bands termed Digital Dividend 1 (790MHz–862MHz) and Digital Dividend 2 (694MHz–790MHz) are set to become available when South Africa completes its migration from analogue to digital broadcasting.
These bands are currently occupied by terrestrial broadcasting services and ICASA has said that they will be vacated by 2015. E-TV said that it does not believe this is realistic.
E-TV said that free-to-air broadcasters face the prospect of losing highly valuable spectrum without being compensated:
Without defined entitlements after analogue switch-off, broadcasters will be thrown into an environment where they are unable to explore additional services such as HD, 3D, etc and compete against TV-like services delivered over new technologies.
The free-to-air broadcaster said that it continues to support the migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) as it will offer a variety of new and exciting services.
E-TV added that it also supports the release of a digital dividend as it understands that broadband and mobile telecommunications has an important role in South Africa’s development.
However, Golding said that the needs of broadcasters must be taken into account.
“E-TV is of the view that, following analogue switch-off, it must be guaranteed at least one full DTT multiplex to replicate its position in the analogue environment or be compensated for the loss of spectrum in the event that it is not provided with a full multiplex,” Golding said.
For the industry to benefit as whole, E-TV recommended that ICASA make it clear that the rights of existing analogue broadcasters, as far as the digital dividend is concerned, will be considered at a later stage in a separate consultative process.