The new Minister of Communications, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo's, recent announcement that she would revert to the pre-2015 policy on signal encryption must be followed up with an extensive public discussion to review all aspects of the stalled Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) programme to deliver digital terrestrial television (DTT) throughout South Africa.
The DA has written to the Minister requesting that she convene a two-day public hearing during which all relevant ICT sector stakeholders can contribute ideas on how to rapidly rescue the programme that has been bogged down by ill-informed political interference, legal challenges, broadcasters squabbling to influence policy in their favour, insufficient funding and a corrupt procurement process.
In the 15 years since the government decided to opt for set-top boxes (STBS) as a means to ensure poorer people could use these decoders on their existing analogue TV sets to receive digital broadcasting signals, technology has rapidly changed, overtaking some of the original ideas included in the programme.
The programme was, from inception, underfunded as there was scant appreciation of the costs of all the steps needed to make the migration a success. South Africa is more economically stressed than it was in 2002, so many of the ambitions of those early ideas cannot be fulfilled.
The ICT sector is desperate to switch off the analogue broadcasting signals that prevent them extending wireless broadband services throughout South Africa. This is the time to include its stakeholders in a dialogue in developing and fast-tracking the analogue switchoff in a way that affordably includes all South Africans in a connected society.
The DA also looks forward to receiving the Minister's reply to a Parliamentary question we submitted in April on her plans to escalate the BDM programme, and hope she will accede to our request for in inclusive discussion and resolution of the BDM programme's challenges.
Marian Shinn MP
DA Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services