South Africa: Another R7 billion needed for digital TV

Technology & Convergence

The project to migrate South Africa’s TV from analogue to digital broadcasting needs another R7 billion

Between the requirements of the Department of Communications (DoC), SABC, and Sentech, the budget shortfall for South Africa’s digital migration project is R7-billion.

This is according to deputy director-general of the DoC, Themba Phiri, who was speaking to the Select Committee for Labour and Public Enterprises last week (15 August 2012).

The digital migration project aims to move South Africa’s terrestrial television broadcasts from using analogue signals, to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

Among the benefits of this migration is the freeing up of radio frequency spectrum used by broadcasters. This has been earmarked for wireless network operators to offer broadband services.

Viewers that depend on Sentech’s terrestrial broadcast received through a normal roof antenna or “bunny ears” will need a set-top box (STB), and in some cases a new antenna, to continue watching TV.

Phiri said that R940-million had been ring-fenced at the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa to subsidise STBs for the poorest South Africans. However, an additional R2.635 billion in subsidies was needed.

This is despite STBs being just over 40% cheaper than expected.

In their presentation to the committee, the DoC said that there is a budget shortfall of R800-million for its DTT awareness campaign.

Combined with the SABC’s technology upgrade and Sentech’s dual illumination requirements, the total budget shortfall is R7-billion, Phiri said.