The ANC has agreed that SA’s migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television should happen in June 2019, the party’s communications subcommittee chairperson Jackson Mthembu confirmed on Wednesday.
“This directive (for moving to digital) comes after the ANC talked to the government. We would have loved to do the migration earlier but there are difficulties in this equation,” Mthembu said at the final day of the ANC’s 54th elective conference, at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s switch-over to digital has been stalled for over nine years, as the government has missed several self-imposed deadlines. The migration policy was first mooted in 2008.
The nub of the delays has been policy uncertainty mostly due to disagreements about the roll-out of set-top boxes — devices required for decoding digital signals for analogue television sets.
“There’s reputation damage that comes with the lateness of moving to digital. Not only reputational damage but a cost that we have lost through our inability to migrate timeously.”
Mthembu said government set the latest deadline for December 2018, but the ANC has given it an additional year. “There will be no extension to the deadline,” he said.
The ANC national executive subcommittee on communications is responsible for overseeing South Africa’s migration to digital.
The move to digital would be in line with global best practice and would free up more broadband for faster and more affordable Internet access. Other countries, including those in the African continent, are ahead of South Africa in terms of digital terrestrial television.
Mired in controversy
The migration policy has also been mired in controversy as tender manipulation allegations regarding the procurement of five million set-top boxes have emerged.
More recently, allegations of bribery and corruption surfaced, implicating pay-TV firm MultiChoice in influencing government policy on the encryption of digital terrestrial signals and set-top boxes.
MultiChoice, a subsidiary of media giant Naspers, allegedly made payments or kickbacks to Gupta-family founded television news channel ANN7 to secure a change in policy on the digital migration. The firm has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and has launched an investigation into the matter that will be led by the audit and risk committee on its board.
MultiChoice, which operates DStv, is considered to be monopolistic in the SA pay-TV market. Mthembu said the ANC has ordered government to speed transformation in the pay-TV market to ensure that “there are no barriers to entry by black entrepreneurs and industrialists”.
“We cannot afford this monopoly and just speak about it. We need to effect this radical economic transformation in this market as a matter of urgency.”
The ANC is yet to issue its discussion documents that outline its resolutions on the pay-TV market and ICT sector more broadly.
- This article was originally published on Moneyweb and is used here with permission