Solve digital TV stand-off now: DA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it will seek intervention in a reported ‘turf war’ over Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) between two newly created ministries in the telecoms and communications portfolio.

The Mail & Guardian reported that a ‘turf war’ has broken out between the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, and the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, over digital migration plans.

The paper reported that the tensions have resulted in Cwele missing the end of July deadline he had set for his department to publish a new policy for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT).

DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Marian Shinn, said the DA will write to President Jacob Zuma to intervene so that Cwele can be allowed to do his job.

“This impasse could further stall the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting and may very well leave South African viewers with poor picture and sound quality,” Shinn said.

“Cabinet must quickly address this battle between Ministers Muthambi and Cwele. It must give Minister Cwele the freedom to do his job which is to fast-track the availability of communications bandwidth to support e-government strategies and the digital economy.”

According to Shinn, the Ministry of Communications, which oversees the SABC, has the attitude that the value of DTT lies in making more and better-quality television programming available to South Africans.

“While this is true – and offers more opportunities for content producers – it does not trump the valuable impact of rapid rollout of high-speed, robust broadband infrastructure for e-government services and economic growth opportunities,” she said.

Shinn called it “bizarre” that Minister Muthambi believes she needs to be included in Ministers Cwele’s decision making.

“He is operating within his legal mandate and the departmental expertise on this issue resides in his department.”

The DA said the reports indicate the realisation of what the ICT sector feared would happen when President Jacob Zuma announced his decision to split the former Communications Department to create a Cabinet position for Minister Muthambi.

“South Africa’s ranking in the international and African ICT environments continues to slide as successive communications ministers’ uninformed meddling in critical issues delays and obfuscates policy and regulatory implementation,” Shinn said.

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Solve digital TV stand-off now: DA