Sentech still waiting for govt funding

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 25 May 2007

The lack of new funding for digital terrestrial TV (DTT) migration may impact the project in later years as equipment orders will be placed later, says Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane.

The Sentech CEO was reacting to yesterday's budget vote speech by communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. The speech reiterated the national signal distributor would complete the migration of the country's broadcasting signal from analogue to digital by November 2011.

Matsepe-Casaburri also said Sentech was on schedule to have 80% of the country covered by DTT for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

"Further, Sentech plans to launch at least one HDTV (high-definition TV) satellite channel in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup," she said.

Mokone-Matabane says while Sentech has sufficient funds to modify and maintain the signal transmitter locations, it does not have the money yet to place orders for the equipment.

"The making of the transmitter equipment has a long lead-time, because it is not off-the-shelf equipment, it has to be manufactured specifically for us."

Mokone-Matabane also does not understand why government is not coming forth with the funding. She says government has made commitments to the International Telecommunications Union, the world body that regulates transmission signals, that it would embark on this digital migration strategy.


Democratic Alliance representative Dene Smuts says the minister needs to explain why Sentech remains under-funded for DTT, and why the funding did not come through upfront.

"She has known, for several years before we got the FIFA World Cup [contract], that SA would digitise, and she has known since we got the World Cup that it will have to digitise fast," she says.

Last year, Sentech asked for R700 million to be allocated over a three-year period to complete the migration to DTT. Yet, in terms of the national budget allocation, it was given only R125 million for this financial year, R118 million in the next and R75 million for the year after.

Smuts says deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and finance minister Trevor Manuel have also expressed concerns over the lack of Sentech's funding.

"Is the department [of communications] so lacking in persuasion and status that its portfolio organisations will continually be given under-funded mandates?"

Sentech, along with Telkom, SABC and the Post Office, fall under Matsepe-Casaburri's portfolio of organisations for which she is responsible.

Other MPs from both the ruling African National Congress and the other opposition parties, such as the Inkatha Freedom Party, also criticised the communications minister on this lack of progress in getting Sentech its funding.