Second province in South Africa switches off analogue TV

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni oversaw the switch-off of the last analogue TV transmitter in the Northern Cape today.

The successful migration from analogue to digital television means that Northern Cape (and Free State) residents will require a digital set-top box (decoder) or a TV with a digital terrestrial television (DTT) tuner to receive free-to-air broadcasting.

The Northern Cape is the second South African province to completely switch off its analogue television transmitters, with the Free State migrating to digital television earlier this week.

According to Ntshavheni, the plan is to decommission all analogue transmitter sites by 31 January 2022.

As of Wednesday, 24 November, Sentech had switched off 113 of the SABC’s 288 analogue sites, all 84 of M-Net’s old sites, and four of E-tv’s 95 sites.

E-tv has threatened legal action over the planned switch-off schedule, saying that many of its viewers could be cut off from broadcasts. E-tv owner eMedia is concerned that this could slash its advertising revenue in the short term.

According to Ntshavheni, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies plans to finalise the complete switch off ahead of the date President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in his State of the Nation address — 31 March 2022.

However, E-tv owner eMedia would like the switch-off timeline expanded to 15–18 months.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni switching off the last analogue television transmitter in the Northern Cape

Ntshavheni said that the government has stepped up DTT installer capacity.

“Sentech’s installer capacity for the remaining provinces has been created, and this will intensify installations in the following months,” she stated.

“In Limpopo and Mpumalanga, we are fully ramped up, and we are on track [with the plan] as well.”

“We are commencing with Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape in terms of the installations,” she added.

Regarding E-tv’s concerns that many needy households would lose access to free-to-air broadcasts, Ntshavheni said that most indigent homes that qualified for set-top boxes were already watching a digital signal.

“11 million South Africans are already watching TV through satellite, and others are watching TV through DTT-compliant TV sets,” she stated.

“This digital migration is not starting today. The message has gone across,” she added.

Ntshavheni further emphasised that the government had received assurances from STB manufacturers that they had sufficient capacity to satisfy the digital decoder demand in South Africa.

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Second province in South Africa switches off analogue TV