Digital TV: The poster child for DOC incompetence

14 Jan

If you want a shining example of the continued inefficiency of the South African department of communications you need to look no further than the migration of the country to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

I was going through some old articles I wrote and I came across one that I wrote for Fin24 in August 2008 (I couldn’t find it on the site but it was tagged as a Fin24 article so it may or may not have been published). It was a report on a briefing given by the then minister of communications Ivy Matsepe-Cassiburri and director general in the department Lyndall Shope-Mafole on the progress towards the switchover to DTT in SA.

According to the info in the article (I can’t remember what was said exactly because it was quite a while ago) we should have been able to buy DTT-enable TVs and set-top boxes by the second or third quarter of 2009. The DTT signal was supposed to be switched on by the end of 2008 and the analogue signal switched off by the end of 2011.

Fast forward to 2013 and we still don’t have digital TV up and running. Subsequent ministers have meddled with the plan and as a result we will probably (and I say this is the most charitable fashion) miss the deadline set by the ITU for turning off the analogue TV signal.

The latest debacle involves minister Dina Pule appealing a ruling by the South Gauteng High Court that e-tv, along with other broadcasters, is meant to decide how the conditional access system on the set-top boxes will work. Having had her case thrown out by the court the minister is going to further delay the roll out of DTT rather than moving quickly to ensure that decisions are made and the country can move forward.

The bigger problem that this poses is that it further delays the turning off of the analogue signal and the opportunity to use that liberated spectrum for broadband communications.

While I am not a hard-core libertarian the continued incompetence displayed by government shows that telecommunications is one area where a hands off attitude would be better for all concerned.

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