South Africa will give more money for digital TV

Digital Content

National treasury has allocated a significant budget to the department of communications over the next three years to assist in the country’s migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television. The department has been allocated more than R1bn over the three years for the project, with the money going to three state organs.

Sentech, the SABC and the Universal Service & Access Agency of SA (Usaasa), which administers the Universal Service Fund, will play an integral role in the migration. Sentech has been allocated about R622m over three years to build new broadcasting infrastructure using the digital standard. It will receive R279m in the next financial year, R169m in 2012/2013 and R176m in 2013/2014.

Sentech received R271m in 2010/2011 for migration. Usaasa has been allocated R220m for the subsidy of the set-top boxes (decoders) for the poor. This is in addition to the R180m it received in 2010/2011. The decoders are needed to receive digital TV signals.

To support Sentech during the dual-illumination period, when both analogue and digital signals are being broadcast simultaneously, the department will give the company R120m the next financial year. It was given R110m in the current year for the same reason.

The Department of Communications wants 96% population coverage for digital TV by 2013. The target for switchover to digital is December of that same year. To date, the department has allocated R515m for migration.

This year, government plans to create a decoder manufacturing strategy meant to stimulate the sector. It will also put together a scheme that will govern the subsidy of set-top boxes. The department will present its proposals to cabinet by June. It will also start work on a local content development strategy, which it says should be completed by August.