SA budget releases funds for migration to digital TV

Rebecca Hawkes | 27-02-2014

The South African Government has allocated R265 million (US$24.5 million) for digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration over the medium term, as part of its budget for the year 2014-15.

Of this funding, R195.1 million ($18.02 million) will be allocated to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for its digital library and a digital playout centre, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced on 26 February.

Sentech will be allocated R69.8 million ($6.45 million) to finalise the roll out of DTT infrastructure. In addition to the new funding from this year’s budget, R1.5 billion has already been allocated to the Universal Service and Access Fund to subsidise set-top boxes, antennae and digital TV equipment installation for the underprivileged, the Treasury said.

“Between 2011/12 and 2013/14, R690 million was transferred to the agency to cover the subsidies for the set-top boxes. These funds remain unused due to a delay in finalising the criteria to determine qualifying households and the court case around the set top box mechanism,” said the government.

An additional R700 million has been made available under the DTT sub-programme to enable the agency to roll out set-top boxes, antennae and instillation over the medium term.

In addition, funds have been re-prioritised towards planning for broadband roll out, said the Treasury.

The Department of Communications aims to enable this by allocating 676,000 subsidised digital set-top boxes to subsidy scheme recipients by March 2015, switching off 63 analogue transmitter sites nationally by March 2015, and transferring required funding for digital infrastructure to Sentech by March 2015. A digital opportunity plan and digital development plan will be established by March 2014, and the digital readiness plan and digital future plan by 31 December 2014.

The complete transition from analogue to digital broadcasting has faced delays in South Africa, but switch over is now set for 1 April 2014.