Public hearings on digital TV announced

Cape Town – After saying that there will be no public hearings over the latest draft regulations for digital terrestrial television (DTT) in South Africa, South Africa's broadcasting regulator has now changed its mind and will have three days of public hearings next week.

After the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) told Channel24 that there won't be any public hearings in an attempt to "speed up the process" of South Africa's slow migration process to DTT, Icasa will now have public hearings from 21-23 August.

A massive 17 respondents out of the 18 who've made written submissions have implored Icasa to hold public hearings over the draft regulations.

The public hearings will consist of a big group of stakeholders, ranging from commercial and public broadcasters to community broadcasters and media groups all making oral representations before Icasa over the course of the three days. Stakeholders and the public can also attend.

Digital TV switch massively delayed

South Africa's digital television switch-over is massively delayed despite the government and the department of communications constantly – since 2002 – insisting that the process "is on track".

As several countries in Africa keep passing South Africa with the switch-over from analogue to digital broadcasting (the latest was Namibia in July) it appears that the latest October 2012 date for the switch-on, as stated by government at the beginning of the year, will also not be met.

None of the set top boxes (STBs) needed by consumers will be available by October and none will be able to be sold commercially since no tenders have yet been awarded.

It takes at least three months for a STB to be manufactured according to specifications, and meanwhile the DTT regulations are still being debated.

The Right to Know Campaign, a public pressure group; as well as the SABC,, M-Net, TopTV and WowTV are set to give public feedback and make presentations before Icasa at the hearings.

SA viewers largely clueless

On 22 August, Kagiso Media, Ellipsis, DRM and the Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS), Primedia and Cape TV will make public presentations before Icasa on DTT.

The following day, Avusa, Highway Africa, SKA and Banzi-Net will appear before Icasa.

South African viewers are largely clueless about the massive impending change which will require them to buy a STB - which will cost about R700 - with a new antenna which will also be required in the majority of switch-over cases.

The government has made no announcements on specifically how the subsidy scheme for only the poorest households will be working, except to announce that the South African Post Office will be involved.

The government plans to subsidise the so-called "poorest of the poor" TV households only.

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