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23 February 2010

SA delays digital TV

18 February, 2010

South Africa's transition from analogue TV broadcasts to digital broadcasts has been postponed by possibly two years or even longer. by Thinus Ferreira

The reason was that the South African television industry and the digital Set Top Boxes that viewers would have to purchase to watch TV in future, would not be ready in time.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) recently published the final digital migration regulations for the transitional process from digital terrestrial TV (DTTV) in the government gazette.

The countrywide switch to DTTV, which was originally set for completion in November 2011, would now possibly only happen by November 2013 or even later.

In a separate document about the migration, Icasa said a new final date would later be announced when analogue broadcasts had to cease and only digital broadcasts were available.

At the time of the switch, there would be "double illumination" - the broadcast of separate, parallel analogue and digital signals by the SABC, and M-Net, but TV viewers who received only analogue signals would have to buy a Set Top Box (STB) to receive the digital TV signals.

Icasa blamed the department of communication, which drove the STB production and distribution process.

The department released no information on how the distribution of STBs would work, nor how government's intended subsidy programme for STBs, which had to be manufactured in SA, would practically be executed.

Cabinet already approved a subsidy amount of R2.45bn to help poor households buy a STB, which is calculated to cost between R400 and R700.

In the regulations, Icasa said the date for the commencement of the DTTV switch had to be postponed "due to delays experienced by the department of communication and the probability that STBs will not be readily available by the proposed date".

Icasa would later release a new date for the switch.

Posted by Pascal Schmitz

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