Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies in South Africa, has warmed the free-to-air broadcaster, e.TV to stop any tactics to postpone South Africa’s digital migration process. The Minister made the announcement following the ruling of the Pretoria High Court judgment that delayed the analogue switch-off date, which was scheduled for 31 March 2022; it has since been moved to 31 June 2022.
The court ruling has given the government additional time to ensure that needy households that registered on time to receive the set-top boxes do so before the analogue switch-off.
The judgement came as a result of e.TV’s case against the Minister, in which the free-to-air broadcaster wanted the analogue switch-off to be postponed for an additional 15 – 18 months.
e.TV stated that going ahead with the analogue switch-off will leave a considerable number of homes that still don’t have the set-up box in the dark. But, the High Court threw out the case with costs implication, ordering the broadcaster to cover the legal cost of Vodacom and ICASA and those of the communications department.
The court, however, believed that the government did all it could to assist the qualifying homes to get the subsidised set-top boxes. The judge indicated that the completion of digital migration will be beneficial for the country’s economy as well as the general public.
The Minister was delighted that e.TV’s case was thrown out, and appealed to the broadcaster to accept the judgement. She also requested that the SaveFreeToAirTV Coalition, the entities against the analogue switch-off, assist government reach the homes that qualify for subsidised set-top boxes to register.
The department is dedicated to providing 507,251 registered homes with the set-to-boxes by 30 June 2022. This date aligns with ICASA’s notion to end the transition period for the broadcasting service and signal distributors to remove the 800MHz – 700MHz band.
Furthermore, the department guarantees that the 260,868 homes registered from 31 October 2021 to 10 March 2022 receive their set-top boxes before 30 September 2022.
The Minister added that it is the government’s duty to help homes still using analogue transmitting television. Those households that met the government-set criteria and registered to receive assistance were their priority. She further stated that the process could not be stopped by unaccounted homes that did not register for set-top boxes, a process that will benefit the country and withhold the government from reaching its target.