South Africa has failed to meet the 17 June 2015 deadline to switch off analogue terrestrial television broadcasts, as agreed to with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In 2010, the Department of Communications (DOC) announced that it was ready to switch over from analogue to digital signal. It further promised all South Africans perfect picture quality during the 2010 World Cup. This seemed like the ideal plan by the government and key stakeholders. It was a win-win for both government and people of South Africa
What went wrong?
After the glossy picture painted by the government, everything seems to have just gone sideways. Nothing seemed to be going right in the DOC. The apparent revolving door approach to Ministers of Communication also did no favours for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). However, MMA strongly believes that DTT has failed to launch primarily as a result of the following three reasons:
1. Lack of awareness among the public that an analogue switch-off is imminent and insufficient funds being made available by government to roll out digital TV infrastructure. The DOC’s public awareness campaign in 2010 seemed to consist of a website that was poorly promoted and a few pamphlets that at times got the basics all wrong. This was after it issued a reported 760 million Rand tender to a PR company that has subsequently become the focus of an SIU investigation over corruption.
2. Lack of consistancy in the policy directives issued by the DOC around Digital Migration. It seemed each new Minister brought in new changes to the policy that just delayed DTT even further.
3. Perhaps most critically, the delay has been as a result of y the high stakes battle between the key stakeholders, most notably Multichoice and E-tv over whether free-to-air digital set top boxes should use a control system based on encryption, was a major delay.
Where to now?
Apart from all these failures, DTT still needs to happen. The big question is will it ever happen? When it happens, who will it actually benefit? Will it benefit the key stakeholders or the public? MMA is of the opinion that DTT should have the people of South Africa as its primary focus. While it is apparent that the current court cases over the most recent DTT policy will continue to delay the implementation of DTT, there is no time to sit and wait until a decision is made around the crucial areas. MMA suggests the following:
1. The DOC develops with key civil society and industry stakeholders coherent, clear and unambiguous messages of what DTT is and how it will benefit all in South Africa.
2. The DOC commits itself to clear public interest decisions on STB’s, not only on how and what the box can do but also on who qualifies for a free box.
3. The DOC commits itself to clear policy directives on encryption. This should be done on a public interest test and not on commercial interests
4. The DOC and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services urgently work on finalising the ICT policy.
5. The DOC brings all content producers together and works on the establishment and development of a local content fund and hub. Content is king for DTT.
South Africa lost this round, Minister Muthambi, needs to renew our faith in her administration and prepare to deliver DTT to us before the end of 2015.
For More Information Please Contact:
Thandi Smith Berry
011 788 1278
Head of Media Policy and Quality Unit
011 788 1278
Director of MMA