Digital TV green light
TWO YEARS AFTER deadline, South Africa will switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) in December 2013, using the European DVB-T2 standard. After a year of speculation and unease, Communications Minister Roy Padayachie has finally announced the decision – to the relief of broadcasters M-Net and e.tv.
The November 2011 switchover date isn’t the only deadline missed. Set-top boxes (decoders) were all set to hit our stores in late 2009 for sale to the public.
M-Net, e.tv and the SABC first announced the joint investment in DTT shortly before Sentech switched on the digital signal on 1 November 2008 and every- thing seemed to be progressing smoothly. Trials were conducted on DVB-T – a standard already approved by Cabinet and the Southern African Development Community and which is the most widely used worldwide.
Then former Minister Siphiwe Nyanda threw a spanner in the works by calling a review last year, despite two previous reviews in a consultation process that began in 2000, and the independent broadcasters’ investments of R250m in the system. The ministry preferred the Japanese ISDB-T standard, used only in Japan and Brazil. M-Net and e.tv were up in arms, arguing a switch at that stage would result in a delay of up to five years and would negate the investment already made.
The SABC has distanced itself from the independent broadcasters’ position, although it had begun the process with them and invested some money.
SA is under pressure to be completely digital by 2015, the deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union or face a blackout: so the decision was long overdue. But not everyone is happy. The National Association of Manufacturers in Electronics Components (Namec) may contest the decision. Namec claims choosing DVB-T2 over ISDB-T will entrench the dominance of existing manufacturers, predominantly made up of white and overseas companies, and exclude emerging manufacturers.