Muthambi must back off on digital TV: Shinn - TechCentral

Muthambi must back off on digital TV: Shinn

Marian Shinn

Marian Shinn

President Jacob Zuma must tell communications minister Faith Muthambi to back off and allow telecommunications and postal services Siyabonga Cwele to do his job when it comes to South Africa’s long-delayed project to migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.

That’s the view of Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn, who says a turf war between Muthambi and Cwele is threatening to further stall the migration process. Shinn says she intends writing to Zuma, asking him to intervene urgently to resolve the issue.

The Mail & Guardian on Friday quoted unnamed sources as saying that at a recent cabinet meeting, a memorandum that Cwele had drafted detailing how digital migration would be implemented, was thrown out by his colleagues because Muthambi was unhappy about it.

Chaos has surrounded the two departments ever since Zuma’s post-election decision to split the old department of communications. The president has faced severe criticism for the decision, with many commentators warning that the move goes against the convergence trend internationally.

“Cabinet must quickly address this battle between ministers Muthambi and Cwele,” Shinn says in a statement. “It must give Cwele the freedom to do his job, which is to fast-track the availability of communications bandwidth to support e-government strategies and the digital economy.”

She says communications, under Muthambi, has taken the attitude that the value of digital migration lies in making more and better TV programming available. “While this is true — and it offers more opportunities for content producers — it does not trump the valuable impact of a rapid roll-out of high-speed, robust broadband infrastructure.”

Shinn finds it “bizarre” that Muthambi “believes she needs to be included in Cwele’s decision making”.

“He is operating within his legal mandate and the departmental expertise on this issue resides in his department,” he says.

“These reports further indicate what the information and communications technology (ICT) sector feared would happen when President Zuma announced his ill-considered decision to split the former communications department to create a cabinet position for Muthambi.

“South Africa’s ranking in the international and African ICT environments continues to slide as successive communications ministers’ uninformed meddling in critical issues delays and obfuscates policy and regulatory implementation. This must stop. South Africa’s continued participation in the global economy depends on a streamlined, robust, high-speed ICT infrastructure.”  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media

5 Comments

  1. One of the few people still in the PPCC from before the last election – and probably the best informed of them all.

  2. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>communications, under Muthambi, has taken the attitude that the value of digital migration lies in making more and better TV programming available. “While this is true — and it offers more opportunities for content producers — it does not trump the valuable impact of a rapid roll-out of high-speed, robust broadband infrastructure.”

    The real value of digital migration will be unlocked in the roll-out of high speed broadband infrastructure and particularly to under-serviced communities: and as a content producer myself, I would much prefer that the focus be on the freeing up of spectrum for this purpose.

    The SABC, with probably the best news resources and infrastructure on the continent; failed dismally to provide a viable 24hour news channel until the service was eventually commissioned by DStv for them to provide on CH404… “FAT Chance” that they will be able to provide “more and better TV programming” in our lifetime, let alone in 8 months time.

    >>Shinn finds it “bizarre” that Muthambi “believes she needs to be included in Cwele’s decision making”.

    It would be just as “bizzarre” if Muthambi were to go ahead and exclude Cwele in all her decision making. If one is going to burn the midnight oil working on some policy document; then the most sensible thing to do would be to run it by the other before presenting it to cabinet… the aim is not to outshine the other but to have a policy which will have all of cabinet’s support and backing.

  3. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >The real value of digital migration will be unlocked in the roll-out of high speed broadband infrastructure and particularly to under-serviced communities

    While I agree with this 100%, does anyone have any faith that the service providers will actually do it? They currently have MORE than enough spectrum in many areas, and are vastly under-utilizing it. The prices would have to be a tiny fraction of what they are to enable them to consume your content, and building out new infrastructure is one of the main reasons the service providers say they have to charge so much.

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