A presidential proclamation of 2 December 2014 gave the department of communications the responsibility to accelerate the implementation of South Africa’s broadcasting digital migration project. The project was only handed over to the communications ministry on 31 January 2015.
Migration is a flagship project for the communications ministry and department. In the period between March 2015 and February 2016, the department achieved a number of key milestones:
— The gazetting of the cabinet-approved broadcasting digital migration policy of 2015, which enabled the provision of set-top boxes and accessories to 5m indigent television-owning households.
— The commencement with the phased in approach of set-top boxes registration in four provinces – the Northern Cape in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) area and neighbouring towns; the Free State; Mpumalanga; and Limpopo.
— Announced 1 February 2016 as the commencement period for dual illumination.
— Conducted bilateral engagements with our neighbouring countries and signed agreements to eliminate possible issues of broadcast frequency interferences post the ceasing of analogue protection after 17 June 2015.
— Since the commencement of the roll-out process in December 2015, the SABC has made four channels and 18 radio stations available on the digital platform, while e.tv has made six channels available.
— As of 31 August 2016, the average overall installation target of 90,7% was recorded in all the SKA towns, namely Carnarvon (91,9%), Brandvlei (90,3%), Williston (85,2%) and Vanwyksvlei (96,8%) in the Northern Cape.
— As an assurance, the project management office conducted two mock switch-offs of high-power analogue transmitters in Carnarvon in June 2016. A second mock switch-off was successfully carried out on the low-power transmitters in July. Only one additional customer was registered during the period of the switch-off, showing that all households in the area have been successfully migrated to digital.
— An analogue transmitter switch-off public event is being planned by the department. In terms of the migration policy, the switch-on and switch-off dates of the digital and analogue broadcasting digital terrestrial television signals will be determined by myself in consultation with cabinet.
I am happy with the progress of this project despite its funding challenges.
We have embarked on a door-to-door registration awareness programme, specifically aimed at senior citizens and people with disabilities as well as those families who, for credible reasons, are unable to go to their nearest Post Office for registration. Our goal is to ensure that we get as many households as possible to sign up for the set-top boxes.
- Faith Muthambi is minister of communications