Minister Nomvula Mokonyane: Free State Digital Migration Colloquium

Premier of the Free State, Mme Ntombela
Honourable MEC’s and Mayors present
Director-General of the Dept. of Communications, Dr Boloka
Member of the Provincial Legislature
Representatives of industry, community media and civil-society
Ladies and Gentlemen

Over the last 3 days we have engaged in discussion and debate to ensure that we place the migration from analogue to digital firmly back on track. Over the past few years we have experienced several delays due to a variety of circumstances that are well known to this forum. 

These delays have led to South Africa being unable to meet the deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union. This situation is of great concern to government as the delays have been costly for government and the industry.

However, now is the time to move decisively and ensure that we speedily switch off our analogue broadcasting system in the shortest possible time.

Achieving this requires increased partnership and collaboration with industry. This will happen both at the level of implementation and provision of equipment and infrastructure. 

So all of us here today have a central role to play in unlocking the digital frontier. 

From day one our objectives with regards to digital migration were aligned to those of the National Development Plan. Ultimately a successful migration will empower us to bridge the digital divide, increase the competitiveness of the South African economy, create jobs and build social cohesion. While also ensuring that we further unlock the potential of SMMEs and cooperatives. 

Digital migration and the ensuing digital revolution will truly be a game changer. 

The full implementation of the project will unlock valuable spectrum which can be used by government and the industry to drive the fourth industrial revolution. 

It will also bring with it greater benefits for content development, especially locally produced and relevant content.

This is sure to include diverse content that will be generated at local level as more channels become available. Moreover, the rollout of the programme will be an enabler for the revitalisation of the electronic manufacturing industry and broadcast content generation.

The multiplier effect will be massive and it will provide opportunities for the industry, SMMEs and cooperatives across the value chain. In a digital future SMMEs are likely to be the greatest beneficiaries both through the supply of migration of devices and the content required to feed the multitude of new channels.

Programme director,

Allow me to briefly touch on the issue of set top boxes.  As you have heard at the beginning of this colloquium, we have decided to revise the current model for the provision of set top boxes which used to rely exclusively on public funding.

The revised model adopts a market/retail driven approach, through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector and industry. Therefore government will no longer be involved in procurement of set top boxes, warehousing, transportation and installation of devices.

There is an estimated 14 million television owning households in the country. South Africa has Three Tier broadcasting, namely, Free-To-Air, Pay and Community broadcast services.

The good news is that an estimated 8.8 million, equivalent to 62 percent market share of the entire television viewing, already own digital satellite decoders and are considered to have migrated to digital platform.

In the revised delivery model Government will provide a limited subsidy to indigent households through the provision of a voucher.

Indigent households can therefore buy a set-top-box or an integrated digital television (IDTV) in the shops using this voucher.

Households that don’t qualify for a subsidy can also purchase these devices in the shops. The retail market must therefore be ready to stock the shops with set-top-boxes and IDTVs.

As I said at the start of my remarks, we are gathered here for an historic mission.  Over the last few days we have gathered information and ideas to devise a programme to fast track analogue switch off in the province and I am confident that the inputs are valuable and will result in the teams successfully switching off analogue broadcasts in the province.

I am confident that the colloquium has found ways to ensure that we can assist the province in coordinating with manufacturers and retailers to accelerate the supply of decoders and IDTVs in stores in the province. Availing migration devices in large numbers would facilitate the uptake of services and citizen migration.

Our commitment is to switch-off analogue broadcast services in the Free State by 31 December 2018, making the province the first to be fully-migrated to digital in South Africa.

We are thus encouraged by the commitment displayed by the Premier, the provincial government and the various stakeholders necessary to the success of this project in the province.

We also cannot over-emphasize the role of local government and civil-society in the promotion of awareness and sharing of information through-out communities to ensure our people are not merely recipients but active participants in the transition and able to enjoy and explore the opportunities presented by digitization.

As I close allow me to say that there has been progress, though we are not yet fully there.

National signal distributor Sentech’s work has resulted in the coverage of 88 percent of the South African population via the digital terrestrial television (DTT) transmitters. A satellite coverage gap network was also deployed to address the remaining 12 percent of the population not accessible via DTT.

I say to you that as government we cannot do it alone. We need the entire industry and other government entities to support the programme.

This programme is our shared future and we must work together to make it a reality.  We dare not allow a divide to emerge between this with access to information and those without. 

The future and the success of DTT will be our shared legacy, and it is one we cannot get wrong.

I look forward to the results of this colloquium coming alive in fast tracking analogue switch off in the province to ensure that the province benefits from the opportunities created from the analogue switch off.  

I thank you.

Speech date:: 
Thursday, October 25, 2018