Cough up R700 or lose your TV signal

2012-04-14 08:21

Every South African household with a TV set will be forced to pay R700 for a set top box (STB) or will lose their free TV signals.

The announcement by Communications Minister Dina Pule in government-run print ads indicated that South Africans would have to fork out about R700 to buy a STB and a new antenna.

The government will only be subsidising a portion of the cost for the “poorest of the poor” households, but no plan has yet been announced on how it will work practically.

People who don’t pay for the STB will eventually lose their TV signal at the end of a process of “dual illumination”, when the terrestrial signals will be switched off.

Ordinary consumers and viewers who are in the dark about the process, which an expert calls “shambolic”, will be forced to make the move to digital terrestrial television (DTT) or lose their TV signals from the SABC, e.tv and others.

This process is known as digital migration – a switch during which the South African TV industry and broadcasters all have to move from terrestrial signals to digital broadcasting similar to the rest of the world.

The final international deadline is June 2015, with several countries having successfully completed the process already. Although South Africa was the first country on the continent to start the process, they are now lagging far behind several African nations, islands and the rest of the world in the digital migration process.

South Africa’s slow process – the launch should have taken place more than two years ago – has been delayed several times. Last year the government moved the launch date to April 2012. It has now again been pushed back to September.

It’s also unclear – as no regulations exist under the new digital framework – what the so-called “must-carry” rules will be and whether satellite TV operators DStv and TopTV will have to continue to carry the current and expanding free-to-air TV channels.

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