Media Monitoring Africa accuses Minister Ntshavheni of interfering in SABC’s operations

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Director of Media Monitoring Africa William Bird has accused Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni of interfering with the SABC’s operations by trying to force the public broadcaster to comply with what she says.

Ntshavheni has threatened to withhold the release of the next financial assistance for the SABC’s turnaround strategy. This follows the SABC’s media statement on Friday that the public broadcaster was losing revenue due to the planned switch-off of all analogue transmitters at the end of the month to migrate to digital television.

Bird says they are consulting their lawyers in light of the Minister’s threats against the SABC for asserting its independence.

“She’s clearly very angry and upset about this. Because it’s clearly a reaction to that and her reactions I think smack of ministerial interference. In fact, we’re busy consulting our lawyers to have a look at that, because it’s a very real problem when your Minister, because you assert your independence, says ‘No, we’re gonna now withdraw our funding, we’ll withdraw these reports, you’re misrepresented this, you’ve misrepresented that.’

Full interview with William Bird:

“Again, why is she only bringing this now. If it was the case that she’d seen that or if that was the view that she’d held earlier. A lot of these things just don’t make sense,” Bird adds.

Migration a risk to SABC 

According to the SABC Board, the migration presents a risk to the public broadcaster’s turnaround plan and will deprive millions of people of public television services.

The Minister says the statement contradicts information presented in the SABC quarterly performance and turnaround plan implementation reports. She says she will write to Parliament to withdraw all the SABC’s quarterly performance reports as they are based on inaccurate information.

Migration from analogue to digital

Residents of various communities in the Waterberg District in Limpopo were left without visuals on their TV screens for more than six hours. The disruption comes as the state-owned network distributor Sentech forges ahead with the restacking of analogue frequencies in the province.

The move by Sentech follows the recent migration from analogue to digital. Residents have accused Sentech of not communicating with them regarding the changes. Some of the residents say they are still waiting for the new digital set-top decoders from the Post Office.

Sentech technicians switched off the network tower from 10 o’clock on Monday morning. The company says the digital restacking exercise will see all TV broadcasts moved to frequencies below 694MHz.

The move will pave the way for communications regulator, Icasa to license frequencies in the 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum.

The switch-off left many residents without television services for several hours.

The Project Manager at Sentech, Mobe Mnisi, says service disruption is necessary for the spectrum change.

“The interruptions to transmission service will take anything from six hours and within that period residents will not be able to access their transmission services. We urge the users to switch the decoder whereby they are able to do a scan and identify the new frequencies assigned to their television services.”

Sentech will continue with the frequency change in Sekhukhune, Capricorn and Mopani districts.

EXPLAINER: What is Digital Migration

-Additional report by Mahlatse Phaladi