South Africa “won’t be held to ransom” by e.tv. That was the warning on Friday by communications minister Faith Muthambi, who was speaking to TechCentral on the sidelines of a Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association (Sadiba) event in Johannesburg where she was a keynote speaker.
Her remarks come after the free-to-air broadcaster filed papers this week at the high court seeking a review of “aspects” of government’s final broadcasting digital migration policy released last month by Muthambi.
Muthambi said e.tv had yet to serve papers on government and that they had not seen sight of these. “We won’t be held to ransom by commercial interests. We are here to serve the interests of the people,” she warned.
Muthambi reiterated earlier statements that government is on top of the digital migration process.
“We are planning to implement the digital migration project over an 18-month period and have put together a plan of action. All 178 transmitters are in place and so is the [South African Bureau of Standards’] Sans 862 standard.”
She dismissed suggestions that Sans 862 will have to be changed in light of government’s new policy. She said government came to the decisions it has on the basis that it cannot restart the standards drafting process.
“Digital terrestrial television regulations are in place from Icasa and we continue to engage all stakeholders. We are working on a programme to engage our neighbours to conclude bilateral agreements with regard to spectrum harmonisation, by 17 June.”
Following an agreement with the International Telecommunication Union, South Africa is meant to switch off analogue broadcasts by that date, after which the ITU won’t protect the country’s TV signals from cross-border interference. It is now common cause that the deadline will not be met.
Muthambi told the audience at the Sadiba conference that the department of communications and other roleplayers are taking digital migration seriously. “We are taking direction from the UK model as it is a good model that will assist us in implementation of the programme.”
The minister also used the event to urge broadcasters to use their platforms to condemn the “unwarranted xenophobic attacks over the last few days”. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media
- See also: E.tv to challenge TV policy in court