As of this morning, the Department of Communications (DOC) has officially been given the mandate over the digital terrestrial television migration, the process of moving all of South Africa off of a traditional analogue television broadcast and towards a new digital standard.

Administration of the digital switchover has been in flux since the old Department of Communications was split in two following the general election in April. Minister for Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, said that the decision regarding the future of digital terrestrial TV (DTT) had been made at the Office of the President and would be gazetted today.

This apparently confirms reports from inside the government which were leaked to local press yesterday.

“I know we are late… we are looking at mitigating the problems caused by this delay” Cwele said,  “But overall responsibility [for DTT] has now passed to the DOC”.

The reason for the switch from analogue broadcast signals to digital is that digital TV uses radio spectrum more efficiently and turning off analogue signals frees up space on the dial for high speed mobile broadband (ICASA’s policy on future spectrum usage was published two weeks ago). More pressingly, the Geneva 2006 Agreement set the 17th of June 2015 as the date when analogue television spectrum would no longer be protected against interference from neighbouring countries any longer. The old  DOC had delayed the migration several times because of disagreements on the broadcasting standard to use for digital television after the migration was completed, among other reasons.

This has left South Africa in a situation where it will most certainly miss the analogue deadline. Cwele said that the most likely outcome now would be that digital migration would begin in border areas by June in order to reduce the chances of interference from neighbouring countries already using the old TV spectrum for broadband services.

The Department of Communications is mandated with managing the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), the SABC, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Brand South Africa and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).