Activists call for delay in analogue TV switch-off

More than a million households have still not been migrated.

More than a million households have still not been migrated.

Published Mar 29, 2022


CAPE TOWN - Activists continue to call for a delay in the analogue switch-off despite the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ refusal to change course, confirming it will proceed on March 31.

This while more than a million households have still not been migrated.

In order to continue watching broadcast television after the switch-off, viewers will have to buy either a DTT decoder, a digital TV set with integrated DTT tuner (IDTV), or a pay-TV satellite service.

The SABC has also said it would continue engaging with Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni to delay the move.

The public broadcaster added that the plan to switch off all analogue TV transmitters by March 31, despite the slow progress of STB (set-top box) registrations and installations, “presents an unsustainable risk to the rights of millions of indigent households, as well as the corporation’s turnaround plan. A premature switch-off will deprive millions of people from important public television services.”

The #SaveFreeTV campaign supported by more than 70 organisations is also demanding a delay until at least 95% of subsidised STBs have been installed and the free-to-air channels have spent the “promised” government funding on public education campaigns promoting the benefits of digital TV.

“We implore the minister to sit down with all free-to-air television operators, as affected parties, to draw up a realistic road map for the responsible, phased switch-off of analogue television in a way that delivers on the much-needed ’digital dividend’ while protecting free TV services. The minister's refusal to delay the switch-off risks decimating the free-to-air television services on digital terrestrial television (DTT) as viewers rush to take up pay TV services due to a lack of other options.

“There are few DTT decoders in the market for those who do not qualify for subsidised boxes, while the integrated digital TV sets (IDTV) capable of picking up the DTT signal that are available at South African retailers tend to be the more expensive big-screen models.”

In an ongoing court case to delay the switch-off, the SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa say that, to the best of their knowledge, no consultation process was ever followed.

They further argue that with the high cost of data, streaming will not be accessible to all.

Meanwhile, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies said: “The benefits of the digital migration and ending dual illumination far outweighs any short-term inconvenience that may happen after the analogue switch-off.

“The department has to date registered in excess of 1.4 million indigent applicants for government’s free decoder and installation. The installation process continues countrywide, and more than 1.2 million households would have their free decoders by the analogue switch-off date. Minister Ntshavheni receives daily updates on the progress with STB installations.”

Cape Times

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