ConCourt to make ruling over extension of switch-off date for analogue TV

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Constitutional Court is expected to make a ruling on the digital migration case next week. This comes after the High Court dismissed free-to-air broadcaster, E-TV’s case in March, extending the switch-off date to end of June.

Watch: Constitutional Court to make ruling on digital migration deadline 

In another effort to stop the migration from analogue to digital, E-TV approached the ConCourt to challenge the high court ruling that analogue signal must be switched off by 30 June. The broadcaster says the switch-off deadline is unlawful and unconstitutional, as it will cut off millions of poor households, who do not yet have access to Set-Top Boxes (STB).

The Court’s ruling will have to indicate whether the scheduled digital migration threatens to undermine the constitutional rights of millions of indigent and vulnerable South Africans, who rely on analogue TV to access news, information, and entertainment.

Government is responsible for ensuring that funding is available for the Scheme for Ownership Support (SOS) for poor households and for the development of a STB manufacturing strategy.

The latest attempts to connect STB’s from Sentech have been unsuccessful; the organisation cites that the matter is under consideration by the courts. STB installer, O-line Technologies’, Baleseng Mabitsela, says he has witnessed a number of challenges with the project.

Mabitsela adds, “You may find like the most critical document which is the ID to verify and corroborate that is the correct recipient. You may find that the ID is not even there. The challenges again would be your day-to-day challenges, your load shedding and the local area. You may find that the challenges may be that you find that supplies have run out and you have to wait for some time to get the stock and you are expected to continue doing the job as stipulated by Sentech.”

MyBroadband editor, Jan Vermeulen, says although it remains unclear how far government has gone in providing STB’s to poor households, it might be forced to make the switch to digital, and then wait until much later to roll-out outstanding boxes.

Vermeulen adds that they do not know about the exact details and that only the Department of Communications knows how many STB’S has at its disposal, but that they have committed in terms of a court order to roll out STB’s to everybody who had registered before the October 31st 2021 deadline.

“Everybody who had registered before then is supposed to receive their Set-Top-Boxes by the end of June. The plan from government’s side is to switch off analogue TV at the end of June. Then, there is still a whole bunch of people that we know of, I think it’s around 200 000 at least who must still receive STB’s. The Court has ordered government to roll these out by September,” Vermeulen explains.

The switch to digital is expected to improve signal reception even for those residing in rural areas.