The High Court of South Africa has ordered the Minister of Communication Khumbudzo Ntshavheni to withhold from the analogue television switch-off scheduled for 31 March.
The verdict on the matter was announced late Monday by the High Court in Pretoria, in which the free-to-air broadcaster, e.TV initiated the case against the Ministry.
In the verdict, the court has asked the Minister to postpone the analogue switch-off by an additional three months, to 30 June 2022. Critics, however, view the verdict as a win for the Minister of Communication.
The litigants, including Media Monitoring Africa and SOS Support Public Broadcasting, wished for a more extended period than the court gave to ensure that the government-subsidised set-top boxes were accessible in remote parts of the country.
The verdict indicated that the set date of 31 March is unlawful and invalid and, following a thorough review, has to be postponed. The Minister is set to report to the court within a month after the verdict to confirm and indicate the process taken by the government that guarantees that the general public who still rely on analogue broadcasting have been supplied with access to the digital set-up boxes.
Additionally, the Minister must illustrate her plans to supply under-equipped call centres with the resources to process viewer inquiries; thereafter, she must guarantee that the campaign has been conducted.
“We are yet to determine the number of households that the switch-off will impact. But, more so, it would be senseless to permit a situation where these households will at some point not benefit from the ASO process. It is the government’s duty to ensure that its international commitment has been honoured,” added the court.
However, e.TV and other litigants could not prove their claim that 2.6 million TV -viewers, of which 8 million are needy people, will soon be without television.