Minister slams eTV for ‘obstructing move to digital’

By Babalo Ndenze for EWN

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni on Tuesday slammed free-to-air broadcaster eTV for “derailing” the country’s move to digital.

She said the broadcaster should rather focus its energies on helping qualifying households to register for set-top-boxes, which would be needed for switch from analogue.

Ntshavheni gave the communications portfolio committee an update on the analogue switch-off now expected at the end of June.

“We are hoping that eTV will bend because they are known for derailing the analogue switch-off process. They’ve derailed this matter previously up to the Constitutional Court and they even lost then. You cannot determine that which government has determined. Government has the obligation to meet its international commitments.”

On Monday, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that e.tv had not shown that the minister erred in setting a deadline for the switchover or that government failed to help poor households access decoders.

South Africa is nearing the endpoint in a phased switch-off of analogue television transmitters, a process that was initially supposed to have wrapped up over a decade ago. Once analogue transmitters have been switched off, viewers will generally need a set-top box to watch TV.

The court did, however, extend the very “ambitious and tight” switch-off deadline by three months from the end of March to end-June to give the state more time to install around 500 000 decoders.

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