Cape Town TV has lost over 600,000 viewers due to digital switch


The Cape Town TV community station has lost over 600,000 viewers because its frequency was changed to accommodate digital terrestrial television trials, it said on Friday.

Station manager Karen Thorne said the free-to-air channel was relocated from channel 38 to channel 67 in March this year by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).

“What we discovered is that because channel 67 is in the upper reaches of the ultra-high frequency spectrum, CTV’s signal is now much harder to pick up because the higher the frequency, the more the signal degrades over distance,” she said.

“As a result many CTV viewers have had to buy wide-band, outside aerials in order to continue picking up CTV signal. But this is an investment that many of CTV’s lower income viewers cannot afford.”

Before the swap, about 1,3m viewers a month tuned in. According to Thorne, this had dropped to 663 000 in September.

Thorne said she understood there would be disruptions during the switch from an analogue to a digital broadcast signal, and that they were not the only ones who would be affected.

“But we believe it is the responsibility of the regulator to preserve and protect existing broadcasting services when such new technologies are introduced.”

The station applied to Icasa to use a lower broadcast frequency, on channel 32, which was apparently not in use at present.

According to Thorne, CTV was still waiting for a written response to the application six months down the line.

The station said it would be forced to seek legal and protest action if there was no resolution. It would also approach Public Protector Thuli Madonsela over the “administrative injustice”.

Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka said they had furnished the station with a response and formally referred the matter to the Joint Spectrum Advisory Group (JSAG) for SABC, Mnet,, and Sentech, among others.

“[The JSAG will] assist the station with the change management strategy for the exploitation and removal of the constraints that could be impeding CTV’s reception and viewership numbers,” he said.

“It must also be noted that channel allocation is subject to congestion, interference, and propagation studies.”

He said in this case, propagation studies were guided by the quest to provide the station with an inteference-free frequency channel. 

In a separate note start of Oct. 2012, communications minister Dina Pule says digital terrestrial television broadcasting will finally be switched on in December 2012, kicking off a long-delayed period of migration and “dual illumination” where both analogue and digital signals will coexist.