South Africa missed the June deadline, as set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), to have all television broadcasts swapped over to a digital medium instead of the current analogue one. For that, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for Communications Minister Faith Muthambi to be removed from being in charge of Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) policy.
The DA wants the responsibility of spear-heading the efforts to go to the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services, as Muthambi “…is about to fail to meet her own deadline of ‘concluding the migration’ from analogue to digital broadcasting in the Northern Cape by 1 January 2016.”
According to the DA, the Northern Cape was to receive 16 000 decoders – also called Set-Top Boxes (STBs) – in the first phase of government’s plan to ensure that as many as five million households could still receive a broadcast signal after the changeover.
But the DA is of the opinion that this is going to fail because:
- No government-ordered STBs which went into production in August/September, have reached the Universal Service Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) which is managing the programme, and
- Only 2 074 (of the 2 336 identified indigent households who have so far applied) have qualified for free decoders. The remainder have failed to qualify because they do not have valid TV licenses.
It added that the lack of decoder delivery is aggravated by two issues:
- Free-to-air broadcaster eTV has successfully taken its challenge to the encryption clause in the controversially-revised BDM policy to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and
- Minister Muthambi’s October announcement that she has requested the National Treasury to investigate the decoder procurement process.
“This lack of political leadership and policy missteps by Minister Muthambi that has seemingly stalled the perpetually-failing transition to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcasting, with its vast dire political, legal and financial implications, may be behind the sudden resignation last week of USAASA chairperson Pumla Radebe,” DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Marian Shinn said in a statement.
In conclusion it stressed again that Muthambi should be “…removed from the digital migration project as a strategic imperative if South Africa wants to progress to a viable and prosperous digitally-empowered future.”[Source – DA, Image – CC by 2.0/Government ZA]