SABC, Sentech lack resources for digital TV migration

Rebecca Hawkes | 18-03-2012

Insufficient funds have been allocated to the public television network South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and state owned television signal distributor Sentech for the roll out of digital terrestrial television (DTT), says Butch Steyn, South Africa's Shadow Deputy Minister of Communications.

In a meeting of the Portfolio Committee for Communications last week, it was revealed the SABC requires ZAR 7.36 billion for digital migration, while it's budget is set at just ZAR 138 million creating a shortfall of ZAR 7.2 billion.

The Sentech budget shortfall for DTT is ZAR 1.29 billion, says the Democratic Alliance's Steyn.

"I will therefore be submitting parliamentary questions to Minister Pule asking whether additional funding will be allocated to the SABC and Sentech by her Department to ensure the timely roll out of DTT," Steyn said in a statement.

"For a country to make the transition from analogue to digital, two important deadlines need to be met. The first is the deadline by when digital television signals are launched, while the second is the date on which analogue television is turned off permanently," he added.

South Africa has committed to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline of June 2015 for digital switch off, thought has already delayed its anticipated launch date for digital television. The country is now is expected to launch DTT services either later this year, or early in 2013.

Pointing out the benefits in the transition to digital television, particularly through the provision of improved signals and channel choice for rural and 'disconnected communities', Steyn said he was concerned that without the speedy allocation of funds, SABC will not be able to deliver DTT.

"The DTT rollout has already suffered several setbacks over the past five years. The Minister needs to take the steps necessary to ensure that the rollout of DTT goes ahead as planned, and that rural communities are given the opportunity to access the benefits that digital television will provide," he said.