30 September 2013
Communications Minister Yunus Carrim has called on the broadcast industry to work with the government in speeding up the implementation of South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.
South Africa was originally meant to have completed migration from analogue to digital signals in November 2011. Currently, the SABC’s channels are being broadcast via outdated analogue signals.
Experts say the delays in the migration process are costing the South African economy. Digital broadcasting is far more efficient, allowing for better picture and sound quality.
“Government is on course and we just want to put pressure on the relevant partners,” Carrim told a business briefing organised by the New Age and SABC on Monday.
“We brought all public broadcasters on board and told them to choose a facilitation team. We are in the midst of those negotiations, and we are not moving as fast as we would like,” he said.
In August 2008, the South African government took a decision that it would subsidise the set-top boxes needed to convert analogue to digital signals for five-million of the poorest South African television households.
The notion of set-top box control was subsequently born in order to protect the state’s investment in subsidised set-top boxes, to prevent set-top boxes acquired using taxpayers’ money from leaving the country.
Carrim said the government’s main concern was to protect the electronic industry and jobs.
“We also want to ensure that new entrants don’t use any government subsidies to create pay TV, on the one hand, and also there are high levels of monopoly and concentration in the industry. We want to give space to the emerging entrepreneurs, especially in the set-top boxes market.”
Carrim said the world was undergoing a digital revolution and that he wanted the country’s information and communication technology (ICT) to be ready for this. “This revolution is transforming the nature of our communication.”
He said his predecessor as minister, Dina Pule, had earlier this year launched an ICT policy review framing paper which sought clarity on the vision for the country’s communication sectors.
A 22-member ICT policy review panel would assess the policy for expanding the sector, he said, adding that it was crucial that ICT played a role in reducing, not increasing, equality in South Africa.
“Help us, and we will actually work hard to make this country be the great country it is and showed itself to be in 1994, 2010 and whole lot of other events.”