Communications Minister Yunus Carrim has called on the broadcast industry to work with government in speeding up the implementation of South Africa’s digital migration.
South Africa was originally meant to have completed migration from analogue to digital signals in November 2011. Currently the SABC channels are being broadcast by the outdated analogue signals. Experts have said the delays in the migration process were costing the South African economy. Digital broadcasting is far more efficient, allows better picture and sound quality.
“What we need to know from the industry is that are we ready to go? Government is on course and we just want to put pressure on the relevant partners. We brought all public broadcasters on board and told them to choose a facilitation team. We are in the midst of those negotiations and we are not moving as fast as we would like,” Carrim said. He was speaking at a business briefing organised by the New Age and SABC on Monday.
In August 2008, the South African government took a decision that it would subsidise the set top boxes for five million of the poorest South African television households. The notion of set top box control was subsequently born in order to protect the state’s investment in subsidised set top boxes, to avoid a situation where set top boxes acquired using taxpayers’ money left the country.
Carrim said government’s main concerns as it moves to the digital space was to protect the electronic industry and jobs. “We also want to ensure that new entrants don’t use any government subsidies to create pay tv on the one hand and also there are high levels of monopoly and concentration in the industry. We want to give space to the emerging entrepreneurs especially in the set top boxes (market).”
Carrim further said the world was in the phase of digital revolution and that he wanted the country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be ready for this.
“This revolution is transforming the nature of our communication.”
He said predecessor Dina Pule earlier this year launched an ICT Policy Review Framing paper, which seeks clarity on the vision for the communication sectors.
A 22-member ICT Policy Review Panel would assess the policy for expanding the Information Communication Technology sector.
“Let’s ensure that this digital divide (focuses on) its positive aspects in reducing inequalities in our society … and its negative aspects of widening the gap is reduced. Help us and we will actually work hard to make this country be the great country it is and showed itself to be in 1994, 2010 and whole lot of other events.”