Minister of Communications Ms Faith Muthambi took the first digital terrestrial television milestone, the households registration process for set-top-boxes, to the Square Kilometre Array community of Keimoes, Kai Garib Municipality, Northern Cape on 2 October 2015. This is being followed by other events around the country.
The first free set-top-boxes were handed over on 17 December.
“This is a very important milestone in the digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration project. This means that households with television sets in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) area will now receive fully subsidised set-top-boxes once they have completed the registration process,” said Muthambi at the Keimoes event.
Households in the districts that form part of the SKA radio telescope must visit their local post office from the 1st of October 2015 to apply for a subsidised television decoder.
South Africa has started with the process of migrating broadcasting signals from analogue to digital. This is done as a results of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolution that countries in region 1 (including Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran) should migrate their broadcasting services from analogue to digital.
The Department of Communications (DoC) on 18 March 2015 gazetted the Amendment of the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy, issued under Government Gazette No 31408 on 8 September 2008.
Cabinet has approved the Amendment with the inclusion of the control system in the STB, which will be clearly defined when the policy is published, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe said at the post Cabinet media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, 5 March 2015.
The issue of whether to include the control system in the STBs has been a source of disagreement amongst free-to air broadcasters for some time now, which impacted negatively on the ability of the country to implement the broadcasting digital television within the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) agreed timelines. The ITU’s agreed deadline for the switch-off of analogue television signals is 17 June 2015. South Africa did not meet this date.
On 26 June 2015 the North Gauteng High Court dismissed etv’s case to encrypt STBs, among other things, with costs. The court has affirmed that the amendment to the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy as published was in the best interest of the South African television viewers.
Communications Minister Faith Muthambi will soon announce the date for the migration of broadcasting services from analogue to digital. Bilateral Engagements will be concluded with our six neighbouring countries namely, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland in order to minimise cross border radio frequency spectrum interference.
Broadcasting digital migration simply defined means the migration of the broadcasting services from analogue broadcasting technology to digital technologies. The primary objective of digital migration is to clear the radio frequency spectrum currently occupied by broadcasters to enable the provision of wireless mobile broadband services and other innovative applications. Therefore STBs are to be used in the transition to enable free to air broadcasting services to migrate from analogue to digital television and will not be a permanent feature in the free to air broadcasting system in South Africa.
The Department of Communications believes that the provision of definition of the STB control system in the final policy will assist in clearing the confusion regarding the use of control system in the STBs. For the purposes of accelerating the migration of free to air broadcasting television from analogue to digital, control system will have the following meaning:
- control system does not mean a conditional access system nor does it mean an encryption of the signal to control access to content by viewers;
- control system refers to a security feature to encourage local electronic manufacturing sector;
- the STB must have minimal switching (on/off) security features to protect the subsidized STBs from theft or leaving SA borders; and
- must have capabilities to enable the provision of government information and services.
The new policy position does not in any way prohibit any broadcaster who will want to include conditional access in the provision of broadcasting services to its customers. It is the firm view of the Department that broadcasters who will want to do that should make their own investment in the acquisition of a conditional access system.
Government will provide free STBs to more than 5 million poor television household owners. This replaces the partial subsidy of 70% as previously approved in 2008. The distribution of the STBs will prioritise those households in the border region areas of the country to avoid and minimise signal interference between those regions and neighbouring countries. Details of the distribution of STBs will be announced soon by the Department. Home owners must be in possession of a South African ID and a TV licence.
STBs will be manufactured in South Africa. According to Minister Muthambi most of the manufacturing companies are ready to deliver as they were waiting for government to finalise its processes.
The Department will in consultation with Cabinet determine and announce the analogue signal switch-on and switch-off dates.
The need for the DTT programme derives from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolution, where countries in region 1 (including Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran) should migrate their broadcasting services from analogue to digital by 17 June 2015.
The main reason for the migration is to release valuable spectrum, which can be used for other services. Spectrum is scarce and we need to make efficient use of the spectrum available for more telecommunications and broadcasting services.
Failing to meet the 2015 deadline to switch off the analogue terrestrial TV signals means that South Africa is no longer protected against disruptions of radio waves that are used for analogue television broadcasts.
In terms of network readiness, the country is standing at 82%, while the broadcasting companies in the country, including the public broadcaster, are ready with regard to content.
Requirement for receiving a subsidised set-top box
South African households with a combined income of R3 200 or less qualify for a subsidised set-top box or decoder. Set-top box decoders will be necessary to continue watching television when South Africa switches to digital television transmission.
To qualify, the household members must also be South African citizens and have a valid television licence. Applicants should bring their identity book, proof of address, proof of income (in the form of an affidavit or salary slip) and television licence to the Post Office when they register.
The registration of households for digital television decoders started on 1 October this year in the SKA area of the Northern Cape, where 2 000 households had registered for a set-top box by 26 November 2015. From 1 December, households in the Free State could also register.
Local contractors will be enlisted to install the satellite dish and decoder.
Where necessary, extra counter staff will be employed at the Post Office outlets to make sure long queues do not build up.
Households that do not qualify for a subsidised set-top box can buy a decoder from their local post office at a one-off cost with no monthly subscription fees. These set-top decoders will give access to more than 18 television channels, including the SABC channels, e-TV and community channels.
Dial the Go Digital call centre at 0800 11-11-88 for more information.
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