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Switch to digital streaming estimated to leave millions of SA viewers with no TV service

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Millions of television viewers in the country are estimated to go without television access next month once the government-imposed analogue switch-off (ASO) starts.

According to the Broadcasting Research Council, an estimated 5.6 million households and 14 million people will be without television once the ASO kicks in. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

MILLIONS of television viewers in the country could be without television access next month once the government-imposed analogue switch-off (ASO) starts.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in his State of the Nation Address that South Africa would migrate from analogue to digital broadcast by March 31.

Cape Town TV (CTV), a non-profit community broadcaster, is fighting to keep its analogue broadcast and stands to lose its viewers once the ASO kicks in, mainly due to a lack of digital TV decoders.

CTV station director Karen Thorne said she was aware of the effect ASO would have on viewers.

“Our research shows that South Africans are very ill-prepared for the switch-off, and this presents a serious problem for all free-to-air broadcasters on the DTT platform.”

There are means available for free-to-air viewers to stay connected despite the changes.

“We encourage households earning under R3,500 a month to register for free, government-supplied decoders. The SA Post Office is available to distribute the decoders to the qualifying families,” Thorne said.

A significant loss of audience would be tough on free-to-air broadcasters. According to the Broadcasting Research Council, an estimated 5.6 million households and 14 million people will be without television once the ASO kicks in.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technology’s (DCDT) report to the Parliamentary portfolio committee on communications said only 616,781 decoders had been issued out of the 1.5 million manufactured by the government, with only 62 installations in the Western Cape.

Thorne said Community TV operated through serving a community, and costs could be high if there was an expansion to provincial broadcasting.

“Community television is required to operate through a non-profit entity that is ’owned and controlled by the community it serves’. Cape Town TV has consistently argued to maintain the three tiers of broadcasting including private, public and community.

“Community TV should be localised, participatory and developmental and should be subsidised, especially in terms of signal distribution costs.”

Because of its concerns with the broadcast digital migration (BDM) process, CTV has opted to join the new #SaveFreeTV movement.

CTV want to ensure a successful migration to the DTT platform, and is looking forward to the coming digital broadcast environment and is also developing its own online channel to provide viewers with content anywhere and any time.

Regular free-to-air viewers are encouraged to register and make the switch to keep supporting community TV programming.

Cape Argus

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