Part of the South African government’s digital TV migration process is threatening to leave millions of Free-State viewers in the dark come December.
The minister of communications, Nomvula Mokonyane, released an official statement on Tuesday warning Free-State residents of the impending analogue TV blackout. The shutdown of analogue signals will effectively prevent households without digital-enabled equipment from viewing basic public broadcasting.
According to channel24, Mokonyane has urged locals to comply with the digital migration process, appealing:
“…to the people of the Free State to start applying for the subsidy or purchase the digital-enabled equipment so that they are ready and enjoy uninterrupted transmission by the December date.”
After missing consecutive deadlines aimed at revolutionising broadcasting and television in South Africa, the government has begun to put pressure on households to comply. International deadlines for the conversion were originally set to June 2015 – South Africa missed this deadline in spectacular fashion.
The switch from analogue TV signal to digital terrestrial television (DTT) is known as the digital migration process and has already led to confusion and allegations of corruption within the South African context.
Millions of households that rely on analogue television signals – those without DStv, M-Net, StarSat or OpenView HD – are in a predicament whereby they’ll be forced to pay for a decoder known as a set-top box (STB).
Without an STB households will no longer have access to television sponsored by the national broadcaster.
Channels hosted by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) will be unavailable, along with e-tv and local community stations.
The government has enlisted the South African Post Office to help with its distribution of STB systems. In many cases antennas and satellite dishes will need to be replaced, greatly increasing the costs of such a conversion.
While the government has guaranteed 5.2 million STB sets to be provided free of charge to the poorest communities, many millions more will be left footing the bill.
Households with an income of less than R3 200 per month qualify to get a free, government-subsidised STB.
Households that do not qualify for a subsidised package will pay between R700 and R800. That payment covers the STB, but may not cover the costs involved in antenna replacement.
Those hoping to apply for a subsidised STB need to register and apply for this at the South African Post Office, along with ID, proof of residence and proof of income.