Digital TV: US fund ‘could help’

4 December 2008

The Department of Communications is to approach the US-based Universal Service Fund (USF) to help finance set-top box subsidies in South Africa if the National Treasury turns down the department’s request to subsidise some five million set-top boxes.

Digital migration is the process of converting television broadcasting signals from analogue to digital technology, to enable more efficient use of the frequency spectrum as well as better quality pictures and sound.

South Africa entered a period of “dual-illumination” on 1 November, lasting though to 1 November 2011, during which television will be broadcast via both analogue and digital signals.

After 1 November 2011, the analogue signal will be switched off, and viewers who do not have digital-compliant television sets will need a set-top box to convert the digital signal for their analogue television sets.

Initial estimates indicate that a set-top box will cost around R700, with the government looking to subsidise 70% of that amount for five million poor households at an estimated cost of R2.45-billion.

Addressing journalists in Pretoria on Wednesday, Department of Communications director-general Lyndall Shope-Mafole told reporters that the digital migration process would improve the government’s capacity for delivering services to the people.

The migration from analogue to digital signal was first agreed to at the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency for telecommunication.

The union took a decision that protection for analogue signals would cease in 2015. Member states were given timelines per region to comply with the decision. Africa forms part of region 1, together with Europe and the Middle East.

Source: BuaNews