21 May 2015
A massive public awareness campaign on digital migration will be undertaken in the coming few weeks, according to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
“The [Department of Communications] will be launching a focused public awareness campaign in the next four weeks. R22 million has been identified to enable the implementation of the broadcasting digital migration awareness campaign. Key messages have been developed. We will work with our local traditional leaders in implementing the digital migration awareness campaign,” she said.
Muthambi was delivering her 2015/16 budget vote in the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament yesterday.
The broadcasting digital migration programme remained a flagship programme for her department, she said, adding that she would do all she could to ensure that the migration process began in the second quarter of this financial year.
However, Muthambi admitted that the country would not meet the international deadline to migrate from analogue to digital. “We are mindful of the fact that the country will not meet the 17 June 2015 analogue switch off date as set by the International Telecommunications Union. We are ready to consult with [the] Cabinet on the digital signal switch-on date.”
In March, the Cabinet approved the final amendments to the broadcasting digital migration policy, which unlocks the project to enable its implementation. It also agreed that the government must provide free set top boxes to five million poor households that have television sets.
The minister also said her department was working to conclude and sign bilateral engagements with six neighbouring countries, namely: Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, to minimise cross-border radio frequency spectrum interference.
The government had prioritised South African communities along the borders for the distribution of set top boxes in order to mitigate any potential frequency spectrum interferences.
“We anticipate to expedite the rollout of set top boxes to be completed in the coming 18 to 24 months so that we can switch off analogue signal and begin to realise the benefits of the digital dividend to allow for the rollout of wireless broadband services,” she said.
In addition, “the process to establish the Department of Communications has been completed”.
“We are committed to create an enabling environment for the provision of inclusive communication services to all South Africans in a manner that promotes socioeconomic development and investment through broadcasting, new media, print media and other new technologies, and brand the country locally and internationally.”
According to the Statistics South Africa General Household Survey 2013, South Africa has 12 million TV-owning households, of which 62% rely solely on free-to-air broadcasting services; the remaining 38% rely on pay services.
Transformation of the media industry, especially the print media in South Africa, was slow, and little had changed since 1994 when Times Media, Naspers, Caxton and Argus were the big four media houses, Muthambi said.
“We do acknowledge that there is a significant number of community media players, thanks to the Media Development and Diversity Agency of South Africa. Transformation of the media remains at the apex of our priorities for this current financial year.”
Work was under way to finalise the media transformation policy. “As part of finalising this policy, we will also investigate the possibility of pooling government media assets with a view to support the creation of a black-owned media house in the country.”
Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said it was important for the government to support community media in order to ensure they were able to sustain themselves. She was speaking to journalism students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology on 19 May, ahead of her department’s Budget Vote in Parliament.
As the debate on media transformation continued, it was crucial for community radio, TV and newspapers to get support from local government, she said.
The department, which subsidised community media through the Media Diversity and Development Agency, recently announced that to offer support, it was looking at setting aside 30% of its advertising to the sector.
It would also mobilise local municipalities to re-channel most of their advertising that related to local communities to community media instead of placing it in national media.