Government eyes ‘radical’ digital TV awareness campaign

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Minister Stella Ndabeni Abrahams’s ministry is tasked with implementing SA’s digital migration programme.
Minister Stella Ndabeni Abrahams’s ministry is tasked with implementing SA’s digital migration programme.

To implement SA’s digital migration in a speedy fashion, the communications ministry, which is the custodian of the programme, met with some key stakeholders on Friday.

This as former communications minister Yunus Carrim dropped a bombshell last week, placing blame for the project’s challenges on MultiChoice’s doorstep.MultiChoice has denied Carrim’s allegations.

South Africa’s switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) has been on the back foot for years now, plagued by controversies that have further bogged down the process.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, now led by minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, on Friday engaged original equipment manufacturers and electronics contract manufacturers on the revised Broadcasting Digital Migration model.

Last year, Cabinet approved a delivery model that encompasses direct appointment of decoder installers at local municipality level, with the second phase looking to include rollout of integrated digital TVs.

While she wouldn’t get into the specifics of the meeting, Ndabeni-Abrahams told ITWeb her department took a decision to engage with the manufacturers, to understand the capabilities of their factories.

“We are very happy with the numbers that we got, but we will brief the public in terms of everything in due course. We must go back now and determine what it is that we need to do from our side as government, to make sure South Africans can be migrated within the time we will stipulate.”

She continued: “We have delayed as a country in terms of rolling out the digital migration process, and now what we are trying to do is to see how can we collaborate with the industry in order to fast-track the process.

“Whilst as government we also have a responsibility to source funding for the subsidised market, there is a bigger market that also needs access to the devices that we are talking about.”

Government has committed to supply digital migration tools to nearly five million South African households that depend on social grants and those with an income of less than R3 200. The decoders are required to convert digital broadcasting signals on analogue TV sets.

“We are working with Stats SA to help us verify if the numbers are still the same because you may discover that family statuses have changed and improved whereby they won’t qualify for subsidy,” she noted.

In addition to Stats SA, the department is working with volunteers that are registering households on the ground, said Ndabeni-Abrahams. “The registration is going well at the moment; the issue was us finalising the standards and availing the installers.”

She added the department is looking to partner with media companies to drive a radical awareness campaigns.

“For now, the registration was always targeting the subsidised market but now the message needs to go out to all in SA that need to migrate.”

South Africa missed the June 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for countries to complete the full switch from analogue to DTT. The ITU has called on nations to migrate to digital to allow radio frequency spectrum to be freed up for mobile broadband services.

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