State to subsidise poor for digital TV

2012-12-28 15:13

Government will subsidise decoders for 5 million poor households by R490, 70% of the R700 that other homes will pay when the country migrates to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

The households will have to raise the remaining 30%, or R210, themselves and government will fork out R2.45 billion in subsidies.

The department of communications will conclude the migration to DTT by June 17 2015, as recommended by International Telecommunications Union.

Poor households include those with a monthly income of R3 200, are dependent on social grants, or pay the R70 concessionary SABC TV licence for the indigent and pensioners.

DTT will allow broadcasters to have more channels, improve viewing quality and diversify content.

The department’s troubled agency, the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa), will be responsible for distributing decoders to the post offices, which will manage the distribution.

Usaasa’s former chief financial officer, Nkabi Hlubi, and senior executives Molefi Mollo and Nhlanhla Mbatha, faced 26 charges of misappropriating R110 million through paying for services not rendered by a number of companies, paying suppliers without its board and ex-chief executive Phineas Moleele’s approval, and buying 27 iPads for R335 502 (at R12 400 each).

The agency admits in its 2011/12 annual report that it had a surplus due to delays in implementation of all its projects because of instability at senior management.

Applications for the subsidy will be made at the country’s more than 2 000 post offices.

Meanwhile, last week South Gauteng High Court acting judge Gerrit Pretorius set aside Pule’s decision to appoint Sentech to handle conditional access controls for decoders after e.tv took her to court.

Pretorius declared Pule’s decision unlawful and of no force.

The case delayed the multibillion-rand tender to deliver subsidised decoders to poor households.

Pule’s spokesperson, Siyabulela Qoza, said the department’s lawyers were studying the judgment and would decide on the course of action next year.

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