Although a month late, the publication of the qualifying criteria for government subsided set-top boxes (STBs) is welcomed the DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Marian Shinn said in a statement on Thursday, 30 October 2014.
The subsidised STBs are aimed at five million low or no-income households, and the publication of the qualifying criteria is the first public sign this year of movement in the digital broadcasting migration process.
South Africa has agreed to a deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union to switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasting by 17 June 2015.
“It is common cause that it will be impossible for South Africa to meet that,” Shinn said.
“The revised Digital Migration Policy, that was ready to go to Cabinet before the May election, has become bogged down in a turf war between the ministers of Communication and Telecommunications and Postal Services following the ill-conceived split by President Jacob Zuma of the former Department of Communications,” said Shinn.
“The release this week by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) of the qualifying criteria for the Set-Top-Box Scheme of Ownership and Support is the first indication that the process of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) is again getting into first gear,” Shinn said.
The deadline for comments on the criteria is 26 November.
Proposed subsidies for terrestrial STBs range from 66% for no-income households to 15% for those earning up to R2,499 a month.
In areas needing satellite transmission the subsidy ranges from 77% for no-or-low income households to 29% for those with an income up to R3,200 a month.
Subsidies will only apply to valid TV licence holders, including concessionary TV licence holders; those with proof of ownership of an operational TV set; South African citizens; and those with proof of household income or dependency on social grants.
“While the publication of the criteria is a welcome move I note with concern that an update on progress with the publication of the revised policy, its impact on the local assembly and logistics of recruiting and training STB installers, and the supporting organisational support has dropped off the programme for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee,” Shinn said.
“The DTPS, and its entities involved in the DTT programme, was originally scheduled for November 21. Its disappearance indicates that the conflict about ministerial responsibility for the rollout of DTT is not yet resolved,” she concluded.