Democratic Alliance MP and shadow deputy communications minister Butch Steyn wants clarity from communications minister Dina Pule about whether or not foreign-made set-top boxes or digital converters for digital terrestrial television can be sold in SA.
Steyn has written a letter to Pule following remarks the minister made on an SABC television station at the weekend where she apparently said that set-top boxes manufactured outside SA will be allowed in the local market.
South Africans will have to purchase the boxes, which decode digital television signals, when the country switches off its analogue broadcasts.
If imported decoders are to be allowed, Steyn says he wants Pule to explains whether they will have to “conform to the same standards and offer the same facilities as those being prescribed under the contentious STB Manufacturing Sector Development Strategy that was approved by cabinet in March 2012”.
“This strategy, which sets technical standards and will approve which companies participate in the manufacturing programme, has been punted by government as a major small business booster and job creator,” Steyn says.
“The approved specifications for locally made set-top boxes currently does not allow for the converters to enable TV sets to be used as screens that can connect to the Internet,” he says.
“This means that locally manufactured set-top boxes made to standards currently specified by the SA Bureau of Standards will not readily find export markets, and if they cost more than proven products already available to consumers worldwide, they will not be price-competitive.”
Steyn says the set-top box manufacturing plan has attracted industry criticism as the “unnecessarily complex” devices produced will “cost consumers twice that of an imported simple digital converter”.
“The minister’s lack of clarity on the import of set-top boxes or digital converters is the latest in a litany of uncertainties about the wisdom and affordability of [the] strategy,” he says. “The portfolio committee on communications has already made a decision that stakeholders … must come before the committee to explain the muddled state of affairs [and] the minister’s statements around the possibility of set-top box imports create further uncertainty.” — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media