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Jul 13, 2012

DTT regulations published for final consultation round

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The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) on Friday tabled the revised digital terrestrial television (DTT) draft regulations for the final round of public consultation.

The consultation was expected to be the last round of public review before the much-delayed finalisation of the regulations in September.

The revised regulations, which would provide a framework for the smooth migration from analogue broadcasting to digital television, aimed to deal with issues that were not addressed in the initial draft regulations.

It was also amended to meet any future contingencies, including the possibility that analogue switch-off might not take place in 2015.

“The DTT process is clearly a complex multistakeholder, multiactivity project in which a breakdown in any one sphere of activity has a knock-on effect in the delivery of other activities,” Icasa noted in the gazetted regulations.

The Department of Communications (DoC) would start the digital migration process in September and said it planned to switch off the analogue transmission in December 2013, after which analogue television sets would require a set-top box (STB) to receive the digital broadcast signal. Originally, the dual-illumination period was to have ended during November 2011.

The international deadline for digital migration is June 17, 2015.

In April, Communications Minister Dina Pule warned that, while the DoC was on schedule with the revised dates, the dual-illumination period could be extended until the global switch-off date, should it be required, to ensure that rural and poor households are in possession of STBs.

The tightened timeline for the analogue switch-off also placed increasing pressure on stakeholders to develop complex systems to achieve a successful DTT launch and create attractive channels and content to incentivise private consumers to acquire STBs during the dual-illumination period, Icasa commented in the regulations.

The authority also aimed to set minimum requirements for local television content on new digital TV channels during the dual-illumination period.

Icasa proposed the establishment of a digital television content advisory group to advise on the most effective way of ensuring the supply of digital television content, to encourage consumers to acquire STBs.

The government aimed to subsidise STBs for about five-million households that were unable to afford STBs. This was estimated to cost about R2.45-billion.

The revised regulations also proposed to redesign the second mobile DTT multiplex to create a third multiplex during the dual-illumination process to promote competition, enable a platform for new entrants, stimulate the uptake of DTT services, foster content and enhance consumer choice.

The policy pointed out that the migration to DTT increased available capacity and spectrum, which enabled the participation of new pay television service providers in the short term and new free-to-air services in the medium to long term.

Stakeholders had until July 30 to submit their written comments.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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