Decision time for digital TV standard

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) task team investigating which digital terrestrial television broadcasting standard the region should adopt said they would report their findings on November 22.

The task team said its findings would be submitted at an SADC meeting of ministers in Lusaka on due on that date.

A senior broadcasting industry source close to the situation said all indications are that the report would be in favour of again committing the SADC to the European standard, known as digital video broadcasting terrestrial (DVB-T). However, it is believed there are dissenting voices among them Angola.

Thanks to an about-turn by the South African Department of Communications earlier this year, the region’s migration from analogue to digital broadcasts has been thrown into disarray.

Japanese standard could be an alternative
The SADC had adopted DVB-T in 2006, but this committment was questioned when the communications department began entertaining lobbying by Brazilian broadcasters who want Southern Africa to adopt a version of Japan’s integrated service digital broadcasting terrestrial (ISDB-T) standard. Brazil has adopted and modified ISDB-T.

Mauritius is already 80% through its migration process and has not been pleased with the standards debate.
Namibia has also already begun migration.

To deal with different viewpoints among SADC members, the regional body set up a task team to investigate which standard would best suit the region.

Japan and Brazil target SA
However, Brazil is not sitting back waiting for the task team’s decision. It has actively engaged with media and been working on a trial in South Africa to prove its standard is superior in meantime. TechCentral met with Japanese and Brazilian technical lobbyists in the Magaliesberg, west of Pretoria, on Tuesday, where they are testing ISDB-T together with state-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components (Namec) has signed a cooperative agreement with Brazil’s digital television forum to promote digital broadcasting in South Africa.

Namec has several large trade unions as members—exactly what the cooperation entails is unclear.

A committee of South African television technicians signed the agreement while on a visit to Brazil. This is not the first group of South Africans the Brazilians have entertained. It has also paid for technology journalists (TechCentral declined the invitation) and government officials to be flown to the South American country to be briefed on ISDB-T.

E.tv, M-Net unhappy
Meanwhile, South African broadcasters have declared their tests of the European DVB-T2 standard, an update to DVB-T, a success. The tests were conducted in Soweto.

E.tv and M-Net have blasted government’s decision to consider ISDB-T.

Industry group, the Southern African Digital Broadcasting Association (Sadiba) said the DVB-T2 trials, which started in September, have gone off well.

Sadiba said the trial is carrying 18 channels, including channels from M-Net, e.tv and the SABC. An interactive service is also being trialled.—TechCentral

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