S Africa: Digital roll-out problems

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eMedia Holdings, which owns the popular e.tv channels and Openview services in South Africa, is taking the government to court over declaring March 2022 closure of all analogue TV services. Indeed, the nation’s communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has ordered that analogue TV end their broadcasts by January 31st.

eMedia has filed papers with South Africa’s High Court saying the abrupt ending of analogue will cause significant harm to the broadcasting sector which needs 15 months to prepare.

eMedia CEO Khalik Sherrif, talking to local press says: “It absolutely cannot be done in time”. e.tv enjoys around 23.5 million viewers per month across about 6.7 million homes. Many are from the poorer end of the community and e.tv argues they cannot afford a digital subscription.

Additionally, eMedia says it will issue an urgent ‘interdict’ over this plan as well as the government’s additional scheme to auction off the analogue terrestrial spectrum for mobile use.

The broadcaster is alleging that there are too few digital set-top boxes available for the market and says that an additional 3.9 million set-top boxes need to be given to its viewers. It states that only some 800,000 boxes are in warehouses for distribution and there is no plan in place for distribution to commence.

The filing to the High Court argues that the preconditions to a lawful digital migration process having not been achieved and fundamentally threatens e.tv’s ability to continue to reach the majority of its audience.


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