The hostility between government entities responsible for implementing South Africa’s migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) and the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, can be blamed on President Jacob Zuma.
That’s the word from Marian Shinn, DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services.
After the general elections in 2014, Zuma announced that some functions of the Ministry and Department of Communications would be split off into a new Ministry and Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), headed up by Siyabonga Cwele.
This resulted in a “legislative nightmare and confusing reporting lines,” Shinn said, with Zuma finally charging Muthambi with managing South Africa’s DTT migration, as well as other broadcasting-related matters.
More recently, a war of words erupted between the Universal Service and Access Agency (Usaasa) and the DoC over the tender for DTT set-top boxes (STBs).
Terrestrial TV viewers will need a decoder-like STB to receive the digital TV signal, and the government plans to subsidise the boxes of the 5 million poorest households in South Africa.
“The unfolding fiasco that is engulfing the digital TV migration process since Cabinet’s approval of the Broadcast Digital Migration policy on 4 March has serious repercussions for a credible set-top-box production and delivery process and our nation’s desperate need to bridge the digital divide,” Shinn said.
Shinn said she has co-written a letter with DA Shadow Minister of Communications Gavin Davis, requesting an urgent meeting of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Communications and Telecommunications.
“Minister Muthambi and [Cwele] must explain the reasons for the significant changes to the policy, their impact on the digital migration process, and the difficulties that have led to a public spat between government role-players,” Shinn said.