Dig­i­tal TV green light

Finweek English Edition - - ADVERTISING & MARKETING - POLOKO MO­FO­KENG polokom@fin­week.co.za

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.

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