Clarity on digital migration project spend

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Media reports claiming that government has spent R10 billion on the procurement of subsidised decoders are incorrect, says the Department of Communications.

“The procurement of government subsidised decoders are contracted by state-owned-entity, Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA), and to date the procurement of antennae and decoders totals R900 million,” said the department.

It said it was also incorrect to suggest that everything that has been procured will go to waste.

“The stock of decoders that is currently in the Post Office warehouse will be depleted in the coming months,” said the department.

The media reports followed the announcement that Cabinet had approved a revised delivery model on the implementation of the Broadcast Digital Migration Project.

Addressing media at the post-Cabinet briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, Minister of Communications Nomvula Mokonyane said the new model adopts a market/retail-driven approach through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector and industry.

With this approach, government will no longer be involved in the procurement of set-top-boxes, warehousing, transportation and installation of devices. 

“This provides South Africa with headway towards the completion of the project in a manner that is inclusive, affordable and efficient, and that reduces risk to government. This will push digital viewership migration to the 85% threshold and beyond, towards switching off all analogue broadcasts,” the Minister said.

In a statement on Friday, the department explained that the Broadcasting Digital Migration is a multi-stakeholder project, with the South African Post office also playing a role as the distributing agency for government decoders, and other funds allocated for installation of decoders and public awareness for the project, including infrastructure build by signal distributor Sentech.    

“The new delivery model that was announced by Cabinet … will be phased in from March next year, but it does not make the already procured decoders absolute or non-usable. The new model of broadcasting digital migration will continue to subsidise indigent television viewing households.

“The new model merely means that government will not procure devices any longer. It will leave this function to retailers. Retailers will now place orders with manufacturers as is their main role in the economy.”

Government will do its role of providing policy certainty and oversight to create an enabling environment.   

The department added that the registration and installation of government decoders will continue unhindered in provinces, and the rollout of the project will continue until the new delivery model is phased in next year.

A media briefing is to be held next week to provide more details on the new delivery model for broadcasting digital migration.

The department said it remains committed to ensuring that all South Africans, subsidised and non-subsidised, migrate to digital services. –