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South Africa has confirmed it has supplied 650,000 low-cost set-top boxes to the South African Post Office for distribution to poorer families in order to receive digital transmissions.
However, the analogue to digital conversion process is as slow as ever. Last year’s June 2015 switch-off date slipped badly amidst allegations of corruption and mismanagement, and legal challenges. Those legal problems – where certain broadcasters are suing the government through the nation’s Constitutional Court.
Communications minister Faith Muthambi told parliament on September 15th that the court case will be heard on February 17th next year, and further complicate any likelihood of an early analogue switch off.
Worse, the 650,000 boxes already bought and delivered might end up being useless given that they are all free-to-air and do not have built-in encryption. There is also an underlying grumble from viewers who currently can watch all of the country’s public service broadcasts from SABC as well as the popular e-TV channel, will have to buy STBs with encryption to carry on watching ‘free’ TV.
Muthambi on Thursday told parliament that “the department is committed to work with all key role players to ensure that the broadcasting digital migration process is successfully implemented”. But just not yet.