The DA has called on Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe to get Cabinet to reverse the Broadcast Digital Migration policy it passed in March.
“This is critical to break the legal logjam that is crippling South Africa’s migration to digital broadcasting,” said the DA.
On 17 June 2015 the International Telecommunications Union will stop protecting analogue broadcasting signals from interference from broadcasters that have migrated to digital broadcasting.
South Africa is listed on the ITU website as one of the countries that have either not started their digital migration process or whose status in the process is unknown.
Neighbouring Mozambique has transitioned. Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Lesotho are progressing with a phased approach, said the DA.
There have been reports about political interference and incompetence that led to South Africa’s retarded Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) process.
The latest legal challenge to the policy focuses on the lack of encryption capability for government-subsidised set top boxes (STBs) that are to be locally produced and sold to South Africa’s poorest households at a reduced price.
“It is widely believed in the electronics manufacturing and broadcasting sector that the policy, whose most recent controversial amendment was done without public participation, was written to favour pre-selected STB suppliers and the effective duopoly of SABC and MultiChoice,” the DA said.
This resulted in a legal challenge by E-tv, which believes a lack of encryption capabilities jeopardises its financial sustainability. E-tv’s court action is delaying the assembly and sale of SABS-standard STBs to South Africans with analogue TV sets.
The DA called on Cabinet to recognise its error and to reverse it so South Africa can fast-track the DTT process.
Among the benefits of switching to digital broadcasting is that frequency spectrum called the “digital dividend” will be freed, and can be used to roll out high-speed wireless broadband networks – such as those based on LTE technology.