The SaveFreeTV campaign fears that many will be left behind in digital TV migration

The deadline is looming for analogue TV switch off.

The deadline is looming for analogue TV switch off.

Published Oct 7, 2022


People’s Media Consortium, SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, Cape Town TV and the Right2Know Campaign call for a digital migration process that is inclusive and fair, that takes into consideration the reality of living conditions in poverty-stricken communities.

On June 28 the Constitutional Court issued a ruling on a case where etv, supported by the Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) against the Minister of Communications and others, called for the previous analogue switch off (ASO) date of June 30 to be revoked.

The ruling held that the minister must consult with the public and industry players before deciding when to finally switch off all analogue TV transmissions.

A statement issued by the SaveFreeTV campaign reiterates: “It has concerns about the time frame of three months afforded to this last call for registration, particularly in the light of insufficient efforts by government to organise robust publicity campaigns and community outreach programmes dedicated to educating and informing the public about the digital migration.”

The SaveFreeTV campaign further argues that their concern is the potentially large number of qualifying households who will be left behind if the switch-off comes too early, and whose basic constitutional right to access information is being compromised by the digital migration process.

“Factors complicating the roll-out include the fact that many Post Offices in South Africa are no longer operating and this hampers people’s ability to register. Some people in rural communities cannot afford to travel to a distant post office while other factors such as the KZN floods and lack of awareness about what documentation is needed are slowing registration efforts.

“While the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies says that a million STBs have been installed and there are only around 200 000 left to do, according to Stats SA there are 5 373 573 indigent households (i.e. those earning R3 500 or less) with television sets in South Africa, so there is a huge gap between installed STBs and actual indigent television households.”

They also said that they eagerly await the public campaigning for public benefit television consultation process that Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni is yet to hold as per the court order which compels her to do so.

The SaveFreeTV campaign is hoping that the minister will solicit as many public voices as possible to ensure inclusivity and diversity in the consultation process. “We call on the minister to use this opportunity to devise citizen-friendly strategies that are cognizant of the poor when implementing digital migration and to safeguard the needs and revenues of free-to-air TV channels which people rely on for basic news and information.”

The final leg of registrations for government subsidised set-top box digital television receivers (STBs) closed on September 30 2022.