The Constitutional Court of South Africa has upheld an appeal to set aside the High Court decision to switch off South Africa’s analogue signal and complete the long-delayed digital migration by June 30.
In April, e.tv lodged an urgent appeal to the Constitutional Court against the judgment and order of the High Court of South Africa Gauteng Division.
Non-profit organisations Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS Support Public Broadcasting also appealed the decision, with the Constitutional Court consolidating the two applications.
The Court declared that the final switch-off date of the analogue signal and the end of dual illumination, as well as the deadline of October 31, 2021, for qualifying households to register for set-top boxes (STBs), is unconstitutional, invalid and is set aside.
It indicated that the process leading up to the October deadline did not provide adequate opportunity for affected households to register and the Minister’s decision not to give notice and take account of the representations received regarding the analogue switch-off date with the public or affected parties is unlawful.
Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni must pay the costs of the applicants.
In March, the High Court dismissed the applications by e.tv and other related parties to restrain the Minister from determining the analogue switch-off date until every indigent person is provided with a STB, whether registered for it or not, and deferred the analogue switch-off from the March 31 deadline to June 30.
This followed an October 12, 2021, urgent application in the High Court by e.tv outlining that the analogue switch-off would prevent millions of people who had not migrated to digital television transmission and do not have STBs from receiving free-to-air television transmission on their analogue television sets.
The application sought wide-ranging relief, including a declarator that the Minister may not complete the digital migration process until the constitutional obligations to provide STBs to persons in need are complied with, and a declarator that the Minister must consult with affected parties before completing digital migration, besides others.
Government had undertaken to assist about 3.75-million qualifying households in the digital migration process by providing STBs and installing these before the analogue switch-off.
However, the applicants alleged that about 2.58-million qualifying households would not have migrated by the analogue switch-off date.
At the time, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies said it was committed to ensuring that the 507 251 households that had registered by October 31, 2021, were connected by no later than June 30, 2022, and the 260 868 households that registered between October 31 and March 10 were connected to their STBs by September 30.