South Africa can complete the migration from analogue to digital television within a year, provided government adopts a mix of satellite and terrestrial broadcasting.
That’s the view of Andre van der Veen, outgoing CEO of eMedia Holdings, the parent company of e.tv, ENCA and Openview, who was speaking to TechCentral in a podcast interview on Wednesday.
“The most important thing that needs to happen is we need to choose a date,” he said. “We have proposed a date of 30 September 2019. We think it’s doable.”
South Africa’s digital migration project is years behind schedule. Originally meant to be completed in 2011 — according to a deadline set by former communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri — implementation has slipped repeatedly.
There are myriad reasons for the delays, including government entertaining a Japanese/Brazilian hybrid technology standard (later abandoned for the European broadcasting standard), a higher turnover of communications ministers and a legal battle between e.tv and MultiChoice over encryption.
Van der Veen said it is time to draw a line in the sand for the sake of getting the project completed as quickly as possible. “Once you’ve set a date, we need to get past the debate of whether you go satellite or DTT,” he said. “We think a hybrid solution (of the two technologies) is acceptable. Whether the cost of DTT is high or not, that’s a debate you can have down the road. The most important thing is to get analogue to digital done.”
He said consumers should have the choice of free-to-air satellite or terrestrial services. Government, he said, must make a decision about whether it wants to subsidise satellite boxes or terrestrial boxes, or a combination of the two.
“Once you’ve agreed on a date, government should start selectively switching off transmitters across the country,” Van der Veen said. “A big-bang approach to these things is never a good idea. We suggest publishing the schedule and stating per month which towns will be switched off from the analogue network.”
This is important, he said, because if the switch-over happens countywide all at once, it could become a logistical nightmare. “You should probably leave the biggest (city) for September, but stagger the larger cities … throughout the year.” — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media
- Listen to the podcast interview with Andre van der Veen