Delays on digital TV switch costly, says media expert

Pundits are predicting that South Africa could miss another digital migration deadline and media expert William Bird concurs.

Bird explains that the delays have been exacerbated by the ongoing court action surrounding the policy changes by the Communications Department on un-encrypted television set-top boxes (STBs).

The debate has largely centered on whether the STBs should be encrypted or not.

Encryption would allow government to intercept transmission, for example to broadcast emergency warnings and regulate the use of STBs outside of South Africa.

Read: Four ways in which the digital TV switchover may affect you

According to Bird, the legal battle has forced the Universal Services and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa) to delay the manufacturing of STBs.

It's now a matter of Con Court handing down the judgment and then we'll know if those STBs will have encryption or not.

William Bird, Executive Director of Media Monitoring Africa

At the same time, STB manufacturers have had contracting issues with Usaasa and the agency may have to put out a new tender.

Usaasa also faces its own law suit from manufacturers of the digital migration decoders for losses incurred.

In June 2015, government missed the initial deadline determined by the International Telecommunication Union.

Meanwhile, Bird says in 2015 alone the digital migration process cost government an estimated R 8.5 billion and will cost more when it's eventually rolled out.

Take a listen to his analysis:

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