[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ollowing Thursday’s constitutional court judgment in favour of former communications minister Faith Muthambi and against e.tv, Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn has again called on the new minister, Ayanda Dlodlo, to begin a thorough review of South Africa’s digital television migration project.
The constitutional court ruled on Thursday morning that Muthambi’s 2015 review of the broadcasting digital migration policy, which removed mandatory encryption for government-subsidised digital TV set-top boxes, was done lawfully. The judgment is a blow to e.tv, which had championed encryption, and a victory to MultiChoice and the SABC, which had both strongly opposed the idea.
The judgment reversed a successful appeal brought by e.tv at the supreme court in Bloemfontein.
Shinn said the judgment means that government can now move ahead with providing free subsidised set-top boxes to 5m indigent households. “The key issue is that these decoders will not have encryption capabilities,” she said in a statement.
“Production of the first tranche of 1,5m decoders was halted in late 2015 because of legal challenges to the policy. More than 500 000 decoders had been produced and are housed in South African Post Office warehouses awaiting distribution,” Shinn added.
“It is noted that today’s decision is only one step in restarting the broadcasting digital migration process. The procurement of government-subsidised decoders for identified indigent households is mired in irregularities, is unaffordable and the technology has moved on.”
Minister Dlodlo last month said in parliament that she intends to reverse Muthambi’s 2015 policy amendments and implement the earlier policy drawn up by another former communications minister, Yunus Carrim.
A joint meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committees of communications and telecommunications & postal services has been scheduled for 20 June, where it’s expected that Dlodlo will provide an update on the digital migration project.
“I call on the minister to use this opportunity to reveal what steps she proposes to stimulate the ICT sector to join forces and contribute expertise to accelerate the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting,” Shinn said.
“This must be government’s priority project so the airwaves can be released for desperately needed mobile broadband services that can contribute to economic growth, job creation and deliver services and opportunities to South Africans.” — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media