News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
2 minute read
6 Sep 2019
12:59 pm

Zondo commission hears why SA is lagging so far behind with digital TV

Makhosandile Zulu

A witness says if resources were made available, the process would be completed in a period of two years.

The commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Friday that a lack of human and financial resources was the main challenge in the country’s migration from an analogue TV system to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

This was revealed by the project manager of the digital migration programme at the department of communications, Dr Fhatuwani Lastborn Mutuvhi.

Mutuvhi said the analogue platform was more costly in that it uses more bandwidth and carries fewer channels, while its digital counterpart uses less bandwidth and offers more channels, which would be beneficial to both viewers and broadcasters.

Mutuvhi told the commission that the programme was not sufficiently funded, with the department of communications needing more human and financial resources to carry out awareness campaigns across the country to entice citizens to register for it.

Since the start of registering citizens for the programme in October 2015, an estimated 1 million registrations had been recorded, with just over 500,000 of those connected on the digital platform, Mutuvhi said. He added that the department had identified 5 million households as indigent and would require government subsidies, and that 1.5 million decoders had been procured.

Mutuvhi said the snail’s pace of the registration process was due to insufficient awareness campaigns being carried out.

“A project of this magnitude requires resources, human and financial resources,” Mutuvhi said. However, he said the budget in the current financial year had improved.

Another cost related to the programme Mutuvhi identified was the establishment of a call centre for users to contact when having issues with their decoders or having any other inquiries.

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Mutuvhi said the delay in migrating from analogue to digital meant Sentech distributed both analogue and digital signals, which was costly to government.

Mutuvhi said as much as the department was responsible for the roll-out of the programme, it currently could not play an effective oversight role over the entities involved in the programme.

“There is a need for full control by the department,” Mutuvhi said, which he said would be ideal.

The chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, questioned whether government was fully committed to rolling out the programme, considering that it dated back as far as 2008 or even further.

“There is a will for government to realise the programme rollout,” Mutuvhi responded.

Government’s commitment to rolling out the programme was evidenced by the fact that, despite the challenges, in the past week the department forged a partnership with the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs to make use of its community workers programme in the registration process, Mutuvhi said.

Another challenge was that there were no installers, which delayed the roll-out of the programme.

“But if resources are available, this is a process we can complete in a period of two years,” Mutuvhi estimated.

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