South Africa’s Department of Communications (DOC) is set to publish the final Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) policy this week. Donald Liphoko, DOC’s acting director-general, attributed the delay in the analogue switch-off process to disagreements about the use of a ‘control system’ in Set Top Boxes (STBs), which some free-to-air broadcasters had suggested would negatively impact on their content. However, on 10 March 2015 the parliament approved a new amendment clarifying the use of a ‘control system’ that will enable households to switch from analogue to digital broadcast signals. Sentech is almost ready to distribute a digital signal while the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is gearing up to provide universal service coverage and new channels. While the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) finalises new DTT regulations, the South African Post Office (SAPO) is expected to implement plans to distribute the STBs. The government will provide free STBs to more than five million low income household owners and prioritise distribution to border region areas of the country to avoid and minimise signal interference between those regions and neighbouring countries.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the migration process deadline, which was originally scheduled for completion in November 2011 in line with a Cabinet decision taken in 2007, has since been pushed back to 1 December 2013, and subsequently 17 June 2015 (the International Telecommunication Union’s [ITU’s] deadline for analogue switch-off). Delays have generally been blamed on former communications department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala, who entertained the possibility of South Africa switching away from its commitments to the European standard for digital broadcasts to a hybrid Japanese-Brazilian alternative. After a year of debate on the subject, during which Mohlala left the department, South Africa settled on the second generation of the European standard.