Cabinet orders move towards digital television

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The South African cabinet has ordered the country to proceed into the digital television era with set top boxes (STBs) that have a control mechanism.

Details are scanty but yesterday’s announcement signals that the disagreement over the design of STBs has been resolved. The disagreement as to whether the STBs must have a control mechanism or not has delayed South Africa’s process of migrating into digital terrestrial television (DTT) by about three years.

Cabinet announced yesterday that it has “approved the Broadcasting Digital Migration Amendment Policy with the inclusion of the control system in the STB, which will be clearly defined when the policy is published.”

The cabinet announcement was followed up by a briefing conducted by the minister of communication, Faith Muthambi. She said the system in the STBs was designed to protect government’s investment in STBs. Government is set to subsidise low income earners to acquire the STBs to the tune of more than R3 billion. About five million households are expected to benefit from this subsidy.

The idea is to have the STBs manufactured in South Africa. Muthambi said the control system will ensure that the STB’s cannot be used outside the boundaries of South Africa. This also ensures that STBs manufactured outside the country do t make arrangement to move the country towards a switch over into digital television.

She said once it is all systems go, “we will be able to go to Cabinet and announce the switch-off date.”

In reaction, MultiChoice which has led the objection against the control mechanism said it “has noted the announcement by Cabinet today on the Broadcasting Digital Migration Amendment Policy.

“We welcome the clarification by the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, at today’s post-Cabinet media briefing that the control system in set-top boxes will be a security feature only, and will not include conditional access or encryption. We await publication of the final policy.”

This piece was first published in ujuh.co.za whose publishers can be reached at news@ujuh.co.za

Email: editor@techfinancials.co.za

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