Digital TV delays: Minister must explain

DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Marian Shinn, said in a statement today (15 January 2013) that she will request that the Minister of Communications, Dina Pule, justify a decision that will further delay South Africa’s migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

The Department of Communications announced yesterday that Pule would appeal a South Gauteng High Court ruling in favour of E-TV.

E-TV initiated court action against the Minister when she assigned responsibility for the hotly debated “set-top box (STB) control” system to Sentech, rather than free-to-air broadcasters (SABC, E-TV).

According to E-TV, Pule had no mandate to make such a decision unilaterally, adding that it was understood that the administration of the STB Control system would reside with them and the SABC.

An STB is a decoder-like box that will be needed to translate the new digital TV signal (using the DVB-T2 standard) into something existing analogue TVs can display.

Marian Shinn
Marian Shinn, DA Shadow Minister of Communications

Among other things, STB Control is expected to prevent use outside the country of STBs subsidised by the South African government.

Shinn said that Pule’s appeal is the second major bureaucratic set-back in three years to South Africa’s DTT rollout. She went on to predict that it would cause the country to miss the June 2015 migration deadline set by the ITU by many months.

“Should the appeal take about a year to settle it will take many more months before the successful STB manufacturers are chosen and able to start planning for production,” Shinn said. “It will then take another six to nine months before the STBs are ready to retail.”

Shinn said that she will ask the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications to call Pule to explain her actions and the negative impact this will have in rolling out our much delayed migration to DTT.

Dina Pule digital TV
Dina Pule digital TV

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Digital TV delays: Minister must explain