One step closer to digital broadcasting

25 August 2010

The council to oversee South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital broadcasting has been appointed. The country’s analogue signal will be switched off on 1 November 2011, after which South Africans will require either digital-compliant TV sets or converters for their existing sets in order to watch television.

Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda this week named the 15 members of the Digital Dzonga Advisory Council, which will advise on and oversee the broadcasting migration process.

According to the Department of Communications, the 15 members were drawn from 51 nominations submitted by the public.

The council comprises Mamokgethi Setati (chairperson), Ruddy Rashama (deputy chairperson), Nomvuyiso Batyi, Dingane Dube, Calvo Mawela, Karen Willenberg, Zubair Munshi, Sabelo Silinga, Richard Paulton, Cawekazi Mahlati, Llewellyn Jones, Julia Hope, Masodi Xaba, Hlukanisa Zitha and Rosey Sekese.

The members represent a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from regulatory, signal distribution, legal, broadcasting, labour, consumer groups and the government.

Global shift to digital

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.

The current period of “dual-illumination”, in which television will be broadcast via both analogue and digital signals, runs until 1 November 2011.

After 1 November 2011, the analogue signal will be switched off, and viewers will need a set-top box to convert the digital signal for their analogue television sets. However, digital-compliant television sets, which do not require set-top boxes, will also be available by then.

Subsidies for poorer households

In August 2008, then Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri announced that the government would introduce a scheme for ownership support to help households that could not afford to buy set-top boxes.

As part of the scheme, the government plans to subsidise 70%, or around R400, of the expected R700 cost of a set-top box.

Matsepe-Casaburri said the advantages of digital broadcasting far outweighed the estimated cost of such a subsidy. These include access to more channels, including focused educational channels, and direct access to new services, such as e-government services.

SAinfo reporter

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