Government’s push for digital migration

Government has outlined its spending plans relating to ICT for the medium-term, which includes finalization of the broadband implementation plan, along with expected progress on digital migration.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan delivered his budget speech 2014 on Wednesday (26 February), and with it, estimates of national expenditure relating to the ICT sector.

South Africa is currently preparing itself to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting, and has set itself a target of 1 April 2014 as a switch over date for digital television.

The bulk of the Department of Communication’s budget over the medium term is allocated to the Infrastructure Support programme, which accounts for 43.6% of total expenditure over the medium term and makes transfers to the department’s public entities and state owned companies over which the department exercises oversight.

Within the medium-term, the communications department would make transfers of the set top box subsidy for poor households through the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa.

The transfer to the agency is the reason for the significant spending projected over the medium-term in the Digital Terrestrial Television sub-programme, Treasury said.

“Between 2011/12 and 2013/14, R690 million was transferred to the agency to cover the subsidies for the set top boxes. These funds remain unused due to a delay in finalising the criteria to determine qualifying households and the court case around the set top box mechanism,” government said.

Pravin Gordhan
Pravin Gordhan

While the funds have been retained for use over the medium-term, an additional R700 million has been made available under the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) sub-programme to enable the agency to roll out set top boxes, antennae and installation over the medium term.

The spending focus will also be on preparing the broadcasting digital migration call centre,
implementing the broadcasting digital migration awareness campaign on digital terrestrial television, and expediting the roll-out of infrastructure for digital terrestrial television by providing a subsidy scheme for set top boxes.

R265 million over the medium-term has been allocated for the broadcasting digital migration project. Of this, R195.1 million is allocated to the South African Broadcasting Corporation for the digital library and a digital playout centre.

Sentech is allocated R69.8 million in 2014/15 to finalise the roll-out of digital terrestrial television infrastructure. These allocations do not include the R1.5 billion allocated to the Universal Service and Access Fund to subsidise set top boxes, antennas and installation, Treasury said.

Treasury also noted that funds have also been re-prioritised towards planning for the broadband roll-out, which accounts for the strong growth in the Broadband sub-programme over the medium-term.

Digital objectives

The DoC aims to facilitate broadcasting digital migration from analogue to digital television by:

  • Allocating 676,000 subsidised digital set top boxes to subsidy scheme recipients by March 2015;
  • Switching off 63 analogue transmitter sites nationally by March 2015;
  • Transferring required funding for the roll-out of digital infrastructure to Sentech by March 2015.

It also plans to develop the digital opportunity plan and digital development plan by March 2014, and the digital readiness plan and digital future plan by 31 December 2014.

More on the budget

Limited room for budget expansion: Gordhan

Gordhan announces funding for Sentech

SA economy can’t afford unrest: Gordhan

No achievement in SA communications: Gordhan

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Government’s push for digital migration