Set-top box controls bad for the poor - R2K

(Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
(Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Johannesburg - A control system in the boxes required for television watchers to switch from analogue to digital would force the poor to pay for access to information, the Right2Know Campaign (R2K) said on Monday.

"There is little doubt in our minds that the control feature will be used in an attempt to squeeze the poor and force them to pay for essential access to information," said spokeswoman Busi Mtabane.

"Box control makes it possible for those who are unable to pay fees to have their TV signals cut, in much the same way as water and electricity is routinely cut off to poor households that cannot afford to pay.

"The public broadcaster has a mandate to provide quality content to the public, and an informed public is crucial to an accountable, responsive democracy."

On Monday, the communications department announced that the final broadcast digital migration policy would be published in the Government Gazette next week.

"The new policy seeks to clarify the use of a control system in set top boxes (STBs) that will enable households to switch from analogue to digital broadcast signals," said acting director general Donald Liphoko.

R2K said the move from analogue to digital broadcasting would transform the communication landscape.

"It has the potential to transform ownership patterns, ensure everyone receives a vastly increased number of TV channels, as well as free up valuable spectrum that could ensure greater access to high-speed internet," said Mtabane.

It called on government to provide free STBs to everyone, rather than only to the 5 million poorest households.

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