Mokonyane appoints advisory council to speed up digital migration


Minister of Communications Nomvula Mokonyane on Monday night announced the appointment of a 12-member Broadcasting Digital Migration Advisory Council to advise her on the long-awaited digital terrestrial television (DTT) plan.

The establishment of the council follows the earlier appointment of Aldred Dreyer as the project director for the DTT Programme Management Office (PMO).

Key among the council’s immediate tasks is to, in collaboration with the PMO advise the Minister on the analogue-switch-over plan, Mokonyane said in a statement.

South Africa has missed multiple DTT deadlines since it started planning for the switch in 2008, with the government-led process dogged by corruption, in-fighting between stakeholders, drawn-out court cases, constant switching on broadcast standards and fighting over conditional access and encryption system issues.

The country missed the June 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for completion of the process and looks set to miss the June 2019 deadline.

According to the statement the council, which is chaired by ICASA councillor Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa and includes key regulatory, public, private sector and labour players, will also oversee the countdown to the Free State Province's switch-off by December 2018 and measures to accelerate the uptake of DTT by South Africans.

The members of the advisory council are:

  • Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa (ICASA councillor and chairperson of the Advisory Council)
  • Aldred Dreyer (Head of PMO)
  • Nomsa Philiso (SABC)
  • Norman Munzhelele (Executive of regulatory division – eMedia)
  • Percy Mathabela (DTI)
  • Linden Petzer (Chief Director for Radio and Satellite Applications - DTPS)
  • Themba Kinana (Executive at Vodacom)
  • Moses Mashisane (Executive at MTN) 
  • Tebogo Leshope (COO - SenTech)
  • Thabo Makenete (Executive at Multichoice)
  • Michael Markovitz (SABC)
  • Sipho Mngqibisa (USAASA)

The council members will stay in office until analogue switch-over for the whole country has been completed, the statement reads.

Mokonyane said she was currently reviewing the DTT delivery model to expedite Analogue Switch-Off (ASO). Analogue viewers are those without a satellite dish or a decoder.

Details of the revised model as well as the date for ASO will be released after consultation with Cabinet.

Mokonyane said she had consulted widely within and outside of government on the best possible delivery model for the broadcasting digital migration.

The council's appointment will contribute to a speedy switch-over from analogue to digital in a manner that is "manageable, collaborative and ensure the sharing of resources between government and industry".

According to Mokonyane, the non-inclusion of other stakeholders on the council does not exclude them from the process. "They will be able to participate on the council’s working groups and streams, where they can make a valuable contribution."

Fin24's sister publication Channel24 reported that many poor TV households earning less than R3 200 who qualify for a free government set-top box (STB) are still waiting for one.

According to the report the government hasn't given any indication of how it will incentivise households who don’t qualify and who must buy one at around R700 – or get a DTT-enabled TV set – to do so. The government has only committed to hand out 5.2 million free STBs but millions more South African TV households need one and will have to buy one.

If the government were to switch off analogue signals before the bulk of TV households have migrated, it will not just take away a public service from millions of South Africans but will have a sudden debilitating impact on especially the SABC’s TV ratings when millions of viewers will “disappear”, according to the report.

The department of communications reportedly needs another R6.6bn to complete the DTT process.

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