Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is deeply concerned about the recent authoritarian like decision by the Minister around Set Top Box (STB) control and conditional access relating to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). According to Business Day 18/02/15, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has taken it upon herself to go against the decision made by the African National Congress (ANC) at the party’s Lekgotla that these boxes should be manufactured with an access control mechanism, completely ignoring Cabinet’s decision – a decision that was made in December 2013. MMA supports the decision for access control of STBs as this will ensure that there are fewer barriers to entry for new players. This will create an environment where diversity of programming and diversity of ownership is ensured.

Once South Africa begins the process of switching off the analogue signal and implementing the digital signal, STBs will be needed in every household in order to receive the broadcast digital signal.

The issue of STB control and conditional access has plagued South Africa’s switch to digital television for years, now causing South Africa to miss the original international deadline of June 2015. Over the last few years, we have not seen any sort of smooth transition into digital broadcasting. The longer South Africa takes to begin this process fully, the more we will drag behind in all areas of Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, including that of broadband.

In the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week, President Jacob Zuma seemed to forget to mention that this process is one of the most important broadcasting changes facing our country, and we are falling behind other African countries like Kenya. Not only does this show a disregard for South Africa’s ICT broadly, but the slow progress of DTT in turn slows the progress of the entire ICT policy review process.

MMA is disturbed that again, decisions already made, have now been put back on the table because the Minister has gone against the advice and decisions made by her cabinet colleagues. MMA calls on the Minister to withdraw her decision to go against her cabinet colleagues and support access control for Set Top Boxes. MMA also calls on the Minister to ensure that the process of DTT does not get delayed any further to ensure that South Africa successfully migrates to digital broadcasting to avoid further embarrassment.

For further information contact:

Thandi Smith Berry                          OR                          Carol Mohlala

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