Govt to embark on digital migration awareness campaign

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cape Town - Government will be embarking on a massive public awareness campaign on digital migration in the coming few weeks, says Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

“The department will be launching a focused public awareness campaign in the next four weeks. R22 million has been identified to enable the implementation of the broadcasting digital migration awareness campaign.

“Key messages have been developed. We will work with our local traditional leaders in implementing the digital migration awareness campaign,” she said.

Minister Muthambi was speaking during the 2015/16 Budget Vote Speech in the Old Assembly Chamber in Parliament on Wednesday.

She said the broadcasting digital migration programme remained a flagship programme for the department, adding that through her leadership, she will do all she can to ensure that the migration process commences during the second quarter of this financial year.

The Minister urged all stakeholders to work together with government to realise this objective. 

Minister Muthambi also used the platform to inform the nation that the country will not meet the international deadline to migrate from analogue to digital.

“We are mindful of the fact that the country will not meet the 17 June 2015 analogue switch off date as set by the International Telecommunications Union. We are ready to consult with Cabinet on the digital signal switch-on date,” she said.

In March 2015, Cabinet approved the final amendments to the broadcasting digital migration policy, which unlocks the project to enable its implementation.

Cabinet further approved that government must provide free Set-Top-Boxes (STB) to the five million poor TV-owning households. This shift is a reflection of government’s commitment to ensure that digital migration happens within the shortest time possible.

Minister Muthambi further announced that the department is hard at work to conclude and sign bilateral engagements with six neighbouring countries to minimise cross border radio frequency spectrum interference. These countries include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

“The technical team is already in Botswana for these engagements and we will join them tomorrow to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between South Africa and Botswana in this respect. On the 27th May 2015 and 3 June 2015, we will be in Lesotho and Swaziland concluding the same,” she said.

Government has prioritised South African communities alongside the borderline areas for the distribution of set-top-boxes in order to mitigate any potential frequency spectrum interferences.

“We anticipate to expedite the rollout of Set-Top-Boxes to be completed in the coming 18-24 months so that we can switch off analogue signal and begin to realise the benefits of digital dividend to allow for the rollout of wireless broadband services,” she said.

The process to establish the Department of Communications has been completed, the Minister said.

“We are committed to create an enabling environment for the provision of inclusive communication services to all South Africans in a manner that promotes socioeconomic development and investment through broadcasting, new media, print media and other new technologies, and brand the country locally and internationally.”

According to the Statistics South Africa General Household Survey 2013, South Africa has 12 million TV-owning households of which 62% rely solely on free-to-air broadcasting services, with the remaining 38% relying on pay services.

Transformation of the media Landscape

Minister Muthambi said the transformation of the media industry, especially the print media in South Africa, is moving at a slow pace.

Little has changed since 1994 when Times Media, Naspers, Caxton and Argus were the big four media houses.

“Twenty one years later the picture looks very much same with 95% of the market share still in the hands of the big four, which must be a cause for concern for all of us.”

She said the question was what must be done to ensure the status quo does not remain the same in years to come.

“We do acknowledge that there is a significant number of community media players, thanks to the Media Development and Diversity Agency of South Africa. Transformation of the media remain at the apex of our priorities for this current financial year.”

Minister Muthambi added that work is currently underway to finalise the media transformation policy.

“As part of finalising this policy, we will also investigate the possibility of pooling government media assets with a view to support the creation of a black-owned media house in the country,” she said.-SAnews.gov.za

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