SA set to meet analogue switch-off deadline after court ruling

Johannesburg - South Africa is a step closer to meeting its December 2018 deadline to switch off analogue, after the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of former communications minister Faith Muthambi against an appeal filed by e.tv.

The judgment follows an appeal lodged by Muthambi in May 2016 on the ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, that she did not follow process in her decision to amend the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy. Muthambi has since moved on to a new portfolio as minister of public service and administration.

New Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said on Thursday she was pleased that the department could now proceed with the implementation of the Digital Terrestrial Television programme to meet the December 2018 switch-off deadline.

READ: Court saga puts set-top box production on ice

The country’s digital broadcast migration project has been dogged by delays, with the company behind the rollout of set-top boxes even temporarily halting production of the boxes needed to ensure signal to TVs.

Set-top boxes decode digital signals for analogue television sets and the government plans to distribute these devices to around 5 million poorer households.

The rollout is key to South Africa’s digital migration project, which intends to shift the SABC, e.tv and other broadcasters off of analogue signals and open up radio frequencies for faster mobile broadband services.

Last year a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment struck down Muthambi’s decision not to encrypt these boxes. 

READ: Communications minister wants to speed up SA's digital migration

Muthambi and broadcaster MultiChoice challenged the matter in the Constitutional Court in February, with the decision now overturned. 

The first phase of the analogue switch-off and migration to digital broadcasting commenced in October last year in the Northern Cape. 

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) area in the province became the first province in the country to switch off its analogue signal with analogue transmitters switched off in Van Wyksvlei, Brandvlei, Williston, Vosburg and Carnarvon.

Dlodlo said recently that 18 analogue transmitters in the core towns of the SKA area had been switched off and that the department had registered 185 000 qualifying households.

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