Committee appointed to oversee South Africa’s lagging digital migration

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has appointed a project steering committee to expedite South Africa’s long-delayed migration from analogue to digital. 

Briefing journalists on the broadcast digital migration programme on Tuesday, Ntshavheni outlined how the process has dragged on for a decade.

“As a country, we initially aimed to complete the migration process in 2011, but the programme suffered serious setbacks during the technology negotiation processes,” she said.

As a member of the International Telecommunications Union, South Africa missed its second deadline to meet the global analogue switch-off date of 1 June 2015. This happened three years after former communications minister Dina Pule announced that the country would not switch on its digital television signals as planned in April 2012.

On Tuesday Ntshavheni said the newly appointed steering committee — chaired by herself and managed by Tebogo Leshope, chief operations officer at Sentech — would  oversee the roll-out of the digital migration and analogue switch-off process. 

It has never been that we don’t have the capacity to migrate; it has been other things that have slowed our migration in terms of the technical skills to see us through the migration,” said the minister, while also noting that, “We have the technical skills within the country to ensure the migration takes place.”

The steering committee will report to the cabinet on a monthly basis and will manage the revised managed integrated model recently adopted to support the switch from analogue to digital. 

Ntshavheni said slightly more than one million qualifying households earning less than R3 500 per month had registered to receive a set-top box necessary for the switch, of nearly four million estimated households that qualify for the devices.

Some 556 954 households have digitally migrated, while almost 10.5-million of 14-million households owning televisions had self-migrated through private satellite boxes. 

“To date, Sentech has been able to switch off all 84 sites [for] MultiChoice analogue transmissions, 105 of 288 (37%) SABC analogue transmissions and four of the 95 (4%) eTV analogue transmissions,” Ntshavheni said.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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