No TV blackout looming in SA: Minister

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has assured the country that there will be no television “black out” beyond the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) deadline of 17 June 2015 to switch from analogue to digital broadcasting.

“While we are not going to meet the ITU deadline, we need to assure the nation that there will never be a black out after the June 17 deadline. However, we will no longer be protected from radio frequency spectrum interference,” said the Minister.

Over 156 countries signed an ITU agreement in 2006, to switch from analogue to digital transmission. The agreement set up a frequency plan for Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. All signatories committed to switch off analogue transmission by 2015.

The consequence for country’s who do not switch from analogue to digital signal is that they will not be protected against interference after the June deadline.

The Minister said government was not folding its arms regarding the process.

“We have already initiated a process of signing bilateral engagements with our neighbouring countries… we have already signed agreements of cooperation in mitigating cross border radio frequency spectrum interference,” she said.

Minister Muthambi, who was speaking at a New Age business briefing in Fourways, Johannesburg, on Friday, said government has prioritised communities along the borders of the country for the distribution of set-top-boxes in order to mitigate any potential frequency spectrum interferences.

“We anticipate to expedite the rollout of set-top-boxes to be completed in the coming 18-24 months so that we can switch off analogue signal and begin to realise the benefits of digital dividend to allow for the rollout of wireless broadband services,” she said.

Responding to a question regarding allegations that she unlawfully removed some members of the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the Minister said the claims were “mischievous”.

“I want to state it upfront that I did not remove anyone on the SABC board. I also want to inform the nation that there is no crisis with the SABC board.”

She said as the Minister, she was the sole shareholder as prescribed by the Broadcasting Act No. 4 of 1999 as amended.

“I do not and will not interfere with SABC board operations and it is imperative to indicate that I do not micro-manage the SABC, but I only ratify lawful decisions taken by the board.

“The removal of members by the SABC board was in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act No. 71 of 2008, which is the governing legislation applied in conjunction with the Memorandum of Incorporation,” she said.

Minister Muthambi is committed to drive transformation in the media.

“It is about time that the South African media landscape reflect the demographics of this nation, from control, ownership, the boardroom and to the newsroom,” she said.

By Nthambeleni Gabara from SANews

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No TV blackout looming in SA: Minister