The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting campaign group has condemned President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address for its failure to consider the expensive digital migration billed to take place this year.
The coalition group expressed its disappointment at the fact the ICT and broadcasting industries were barely mentioned in the President’s speech, as HumanIPO did in an article published earlier, particularly given plans to forge the country into a leading ICT knowledge base and maximise the use of ICT across industry sectors.
Furthermore, the coalition believes the scale of costs – both to the state and to individuals in society – of the impending digital migration, merited a mention in the State of the Nation address.
“South Africa is embarking on a major ICT policy, legislative and regulatory review process to craft a new ICT vision for the country,” the group said in a statement.
“Further, it is in the process of rolling out one of the most expensive and far reaching ICT projects it has ever rolled out – the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television. SOS believes that the cost, scale and impact will be of the magnitude of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup!”
Adding a breakdown of costs to the individual in society of the digital migration, the coalition said: “In order to receive the new digital signal and reap the promise of the new information age, every household will have to buy a set-top box / decoder to receive television and other e-services on their old analogue television sets. Although figures haven’t been finalised, government has been talking about all households needing to pay R700 (or higher) to purchase a decoder and aerial package. A subsidy scheme will be rolled out for poor households.”
Noting that the mention of ICT made in the President’s speech was limited to the intended rollout of 100 percent broadband coverage across the nation, SOS drew attention to the fact that attaining the broadband target relies on the successful migration of television signal.
“We hope that, despite not mentioning these critical issues in his speech, the Presidency will, nonetheless, prioritise them,” concluded the coalition’s statement.
SOS finally asked that the state-broadcaster SABC be put under the proper scrutiny, and that the government supports the growth of locally sourced diverse broadcast content.
“The SABC remains South Africa’s most important broadcaster in terms of size and reach. As mentioned in previous statements the Coalition would like to see government ensuring that the Corporation is held firmly to account in terms of good governance practices and principles and that it ensures the public broadcaster has sufficient funding to fulfill its public mandate. In addition, the Coalition would like to see government prioritising its support for a vibrant, diverse local content industry.”