SADC lags in digital TV implementation

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SADC member states have been encouraged to assist each other to meet digital migration goals.
SADC member states have been encouraged to assist each other to meet digital migration goals.

Only four out of the 15 member states that make up the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have fully migrated from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT), according to communications minister Ayanda Dlodlo.

SADC member states, as well as other countries, have committed to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) call for all nations to switch to DTT. The ITU has called on countries to switch over to allow radio frequency spectrum to be freed up for mobile broadband services.

However, the majority of these countries, including SA, missed the June 2015 deadline set by the ITU for nations to migrate.

Dlodlo, who delivered the keynote address at the SADC-SABA (Southern Africa Broadcasting Association) Broadcast Forum in Namibia's capital city Windhoek, told delegates that Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia and the United Republic of Tanzania have fully migrated.

Other member states, including SA and Zambia, have their DTT networks in operational mode, she said.

The minister stated the advent of digital broadcasting is the reality all countries in the world are faced with and SADC is no exception. According to an ITU 2016 report, 66 countries in the world have completed digital migration, while 66 were ongoing, 61 unknown and 14 had not started.

Although most SADC member states have not completed their migration, Dlodlo said she is encouraged by the advances and progress made in the region.

It is comforting to learn that all SADC member states have established a national taskforce or committee, have a national DTT policy in place, have enacted DTT regulations and have consumer awareness programmes in place, she pointed out.

"These structural elements are essential in establishing a sound framework for the implementation of the migration programme. This work was made possible largely by the establishment of the SADC Digital Migration Project Office, which worked tirelessly in assisting the member states on implementing the programmes. We thank the SADC office for this invaluable intervention and contribution.

"We recognise there are still common challenges faced by the SABC [SADC] member states with regards to funding, network rollout and the availability of set-top boxes. We also recognise that member states missed the ITU transition date of June 2015. It is our collective responsibility to assist each and share experiences wherever possible in realising this common goal for the benefit of the region."

Content benefits

While spectrum availability has been identified as the key reason to pursue the broadcasting digital migration process, one of the major draw cards for the uptake of digital migration is access to compelling content, according to Dlodlo.

SADC ministers discussed the need to focus on an integrated approach to address content demands as a result of digital migration, she said.

"Member states should embrace strategies to promote the production and consumption of local content to ensure an enabling environment for sustainable telling of Africa's own stories," said the communications minister.

The communications department, which has been charged with driving SA's digital broadcasting migration project, has committed to complete the country's migration process by December 2018.

Since taking office in March, Dlodlo has been driving the digital migration process forward and her department is currently working in border-lying areas on DTT roll-out.

The minister is of the view the migration project will move ahead and has reiterated her commitment to meet the deadline. "I have full appreciation of the impact the digital migration project is set to have on the economy of this country. I therefore have no intention to delay the process," she said previously.

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