Govt to subsidise Set-Top-Boxes for poor

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Johannesburg - Government has developed a support scheme to ensure that poor people are not left behind when South Africa makes the complete switch from analogue television broadcasting to digital television broadcasting technology.

Through the so-called Scheme for Ownership Support (SOS), government will subsidise the Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) which convert the digital signal into analogue signal.

Government is anticipated to subsidise 70 percent of the expected R700 cost of the STB, meaning that poor households could pay only R300.

Communication Minister General Siphiwe Nyanda explained that Cabinet had approved an amount of R400 million to subsidise around five million poor households.

However, he said government was still finalising the details around the implementation of the support scheme.

"For its part, government has already made a decision to support poor TV-owning households and we are in the process of finalising the details regarding the implementation of the support scheme," the minister said.

Once the details of the scheme have been finalised and the scheme is ready to be rolled out, consumers will be informed on criteria for qualification and the application process, said the minister.

Currently, South Africa is in a dual-illuminating period where both digital and analogue signals are available. On 1 November 2008, the country officially switched-on the digital signal, while the analogue signal is expected to be switched-off on 1 November 2011.

In order to receive the digital signal on current analogue TV sets, households will need to purchase STBs that convert the digital signal into analogue signal.

These STBs will be available at retail stores during the first half of 2010.

Deputy Minister Dina Pule explained that the STBs for free-to-air services will have standardised operating systems prioritising security features, interoperability, addressability and inter-connectability.

"These features enable the disconnection of stolen boxes and reduce the possibility of an influx of boxes not manufactured or approved in South Africa from flooding the market.

"The South African Bureau of Standards is at final stages to gazette the South African Digital Terrestrial Television Standard," she said.

The minister and his deputy were speaking at a two-day summit aimed at discussing the STBs manufacturing strategy that will allow local companies to entirely manufacture the devices.