Cover story

A costly gold mine

South Africa`s move from an analogue to a digital terrestrial broadcasting platform will cost the country billions of rand, with government, broadcasters and even consumers having to shell out large amounts of cash in the process.

01 September 2008

In August, the South African cabinet approved a digital migration strategy that will see the state spending R2.5 billion to subsidise five million television households to buy set-top boxes (STBs). The device converts a digital signal to the analogue TV sets that most South African households own. In addition, government is already providing state signal distributor Sentech with R960 million to roll out digital terrestrial TV (DTT) infrastructure over a three-year period. Sentech has previously noted that operational costs of the three-year dual illumination period, which begins on 1 November, will amount to an additional R917 million. Dual illumination refers to the co-existence of analogue and digital terrestrial broadcasts before the analogue signal is discontinued.

Broadcasters are also de-manding their fair share of government funding for DTT, which would run up to tens of millions of rand. According Department of Communications (DOC) director-general Lyndall Shope-Mafole, STBs will cost consumers R700. "We acknowledge that DTT puts a strain on government and consumers in terms of paying, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges," she says.

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