In a submission to the country’s communications watchdog ICASA, broadcaster Primedia has recommended that the regulator ensures final Digital Sound Broadcasting (DSB) regulations make no mention of the switch-off of analogue sound broadcasting services.
The Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) will be holding (virtual) public hearings on the draft DSB Regulations, 2020 on 20 and 21 January 2021.
On 13 November 2020, the Authority published a Draft DSB Regulations 1, and the deadline for written representations thereon was 29 December 2020, which was subsequently extended by notice to 8 January 2021.
By the closing date, ICASA had received fifteen written submissions from stakeholders. In short, ICASA supports the introduction of DSB in South Africa.
However, in its submission, Primedia states that DSB requires an enabling environment if it is to have any hope of being introduced successfully.
“It recognises, further, that many aspects of the Draft Regulations are conducive to the introduction of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) and DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) services in South Africa and for that reason it welcomes them,” the broadcaster said.
But Primedia further states that it is of the view that market forces are such that it seems possible, if not likely, that online audio services may have already overtaken DSB.
The broadcaster also added that DSB-like services are undertaken in South Africa, including many if not all licensed sound broadcasters in the country.
However, this is being done by way of podcasts or streaming services online rather than via DSB.
Primedia pointed out that only luxury car manufacturers such as BMW, have a DSB-enabled receiver fitted into their cars. This receiver enables the playing of DAB only and no DRM.
The broadcaster added that car-sound technology appears to have over-taken regulatory events. Right now many cars, even entry-level ones, in brands such as Ford, VW, Toyota and others, now offer streaming connections such as Apple CarPlay7 and Android Auto8 as standard features in their vehicles.
“The bottom line, as many market commentators have already noted, it appears that DSB (whether DAB or DRM) is a technology that has been leapfrogged by streaming and other online services, such as podcasts, and is no longer the digital audio technology of the future,” said Primedia.
“For this reason, it is imperative that the final DSB regulations be prescribed by ICASA make no mention, in line with the country’s and the ITU’s policy positions, of the switch-off of analogue sound broadcasting services.
“This will all broadcasters to provide services, whether digital or analogue, in accordance with audience needs and demands and to respond appropriately to the availability of new technologies. The future viability of sound broadcasting services is at stake and it is imperative that ICASA not regulate in a way, albeit inadvertently, that undermines radio as a broadcast medium.”