Digital migration to be completed in 2018

The Department of Communications is aiming to complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting at the end of 2018, says Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

“I think everyone in the country can see that digital migration is no longer an impossible project to implement. The project was handed over to me on January 30, and three months later, on 18 March 2015, the policy was gazetted.

“To prove that we are moving with speed to [make] the project a reality, in October 2016, we initiated the registration process of government subsided set-top boxes (STBs) in the SKA [Square Kilometre Array] area and this made residents of Keimoes and Kai Garib in the Northern Cape the first people in South Africa to experience digital migration in December 2015.

“Last week, we officially turned off the analogue television transmission, whereby over 3 700 households in the town of Carnavon, Vanwyksvlei, Brandvlei, Vosburg and Williston were successfully migrated to the much awaited digital platform.

“We are now eyeing to complete the digital migration project in the country by the end of December 2018,” Minister Muthambi said.

She was addressing The New Age business briefing, aired on the SABC’s Morning Live show.

The SKA area and other border-lying areas were prioritised for STB registration and installation to prevent signal interruption from neighbouring countries as the world migrates to digital broadcasting. The roll-out of STBs, however, will take place across the country. STBs convert digital signals so they can be viewed on ordinary TV sets.

“Our role as government is to guarantee that this transition process runs smoothly and is fair. We are coming to your town and please be patient,” the Minister said.

Registrations for government subsidised STBs are now underway in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Registrations for STBs will open in the North West, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng at a later stage. Poor households are urged to register for free STBs at their local post office.

Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) acting Director General, Donald Liphoko, has described digital migration as a people centred project.

“As the reception of digital TV requires viewers to connect a set-top box to an existing analogue television set or to acquire a digital TV receiver, as government, we will be distributing more than four million STBs to the poorest of the poor.

“Digital transmission results in improved reception quality and since it uses radio frequency spectrum more efficiently, it allows more programme channels in the same frequency bands,” Liphoko said.

Clean audits

Minister Muthambi used the platform to commend her department and the entities that report to her ministry for getting clean audits.

The Department of Communications, the GCIS and Brand South Africa received unqualified audits with no matter of emphasis, while other entities received unqualified reports, but with one matter of emphasis including the SABC, the Film and Publication Board, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

“During the 2015/16 financial year, the department implemented and achieved over 63% of its planned targets and a clean audit, with just 65 employees and no consultants were used.

“The staff had to work extra hours … because the average staff complement in government departments is around 400 employees but we had 65 employees,” she said.

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Digital migration to be completed in 2018