South Africa: Pule in about-turn on digital TV

Technology & Convergence

The communications minister has told parliament that a government policy that mandated that set-top boxes support a control system for digital terrestrial television would be reviewed.

Communications minister Dina Pule surprised parliament on Tuesday, announcing that she’s decided to review the policy on the set-top box control system for digital terrestrial television so that its inclusion would no longer be mandatory.

The issue of set-top box control has delayed the roll-out of digital terrestrial television for a year. This is after e.tv took issue with a decision by the minister that state-owned Sentech would manage the control system. The free-to-air broadcaster took Pule’s decision on review to the high court, which found in its favour late last year.

Among other things, government wanted to use the control system to ensure that government-subsidised decoders were not resold outside the country.

Pule told parliament on Tuesday that the review of government’s position on the control system was “one way of fast-tracking the roll-out of digital terrestrial television”.

However, it was not immediately clear if this meant that the tender for the manufacture of subsidised set-top boxes would still make inclusion of a control system mandatory. Pule’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The minister had been waiting for e.tv and the SABC to put together a proposal of how they intended to manage the control system.