Government remains committed to switching off analogue terrestrial television, and completing the switch to digital broadcasts, by November 2011. But communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda has conceded the deadline may have to be revisited, especially if the country decides to adopt a new standard for digital television.
Nyanda was speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, where he announced the new members of the Digital Dzonga advisory council, who will advise government on the country’s planned migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
Nyanda said the council will advise him if the final implementation date for digital terrestrial broadcasts will need to be moved back. Government will then make a decision about a new date.
He said this may be necessary if SA decides to abandon its commitment the European standard, digital video broadcasting terrestrial, in favour of a hybrid Japanese-Brazilian system known as integrated digital service broadcasting terrestrial.
The minister said a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) task team, appointed to consider whether the region should adopt the Japanese-Brazilian standard over the European system, will report back to a meeting of ministers “soon”. There’s no indication yet of what the task teams’s findings are.
Commercial broadcasters have expressed deep unhappiness over government’s decision to revisit the standards debate, arguing it could set back SA’s digital migration by years, and possibly even put the country’s commitment to the International Telecommunication Union to achieve full switchover by mid-2015 in doubt.
The standards debate is likely to result in heated discussion among the new members of the Digital Dzonga. They have been appointed following a decision by Nyanda earlier this year to dissolve the previous council because of “conflicts of interest”.
The new members of the Digital Dzonga council are: Mamokgethi Setati (chairman), Ruddy Rashama (deputy chairman), Nomvula Batyi, Dingane Dube, Calvo Mawela, Karen Willengberg, Zubair Munshi, Sabelo Silinga, Richard Paulton, Cawekazi Mahlati, Llewellyn Jones, Julia Hope, Masodi Xaba and Hlukanisa Zitha.
The department of communications is also expected to nominate an official to take a seat on the council. The council members have been appointed for a five-year term. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral