Digital TV to cost even more

2011-09-21 12:52
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – The bill is fast mounting for ordinary South African TV viewers to get digital television - and the price is steadily increasing.

The government has revealed that South Africa's 11 million TV households will also need to buy a new antenna besides just a set top box (STB) during the country's switch-over from analogue to digital broadcasting – because the digital signal will be "too weak".

While millions of South Africans will have to cough up an estimated R700 to buy a STB for South Africa's TV switch-over, a process known as digital migration, the department of communications is now saying that new antennas will also be needed.

That will cost another R110 for most viewers. Add another R31 ($4) if the government adds an encryption system, or so-called STB Control, into the box so that the government can control who gets the signal and prevent STBs from being used outside of South Africa.

This means that the STB price has just shot up to an estimated R840 which the majority of South Africans will have to pay in full.


Meanwhile, the government has said that only the poorest of South African households will receive a subsidy to buy a STB, but has given no indication yet of how the subsidy will work, how it will determine which households qualify, and what the subsidy amount will be.

The rest of households will have to pay the full amount to switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT) when broadcasters start moving to a digital broadcasting system. 

New antennas needed

The department of communications dropped a bombshell in parliament and told the portfolio committee on communications that "60% of South African TV owning households will require a (new) outdoor antenna; 40% will require an indoor antenna, depending on the strength of the signal.

"We have not catered for that when we dealt with the issue of the subsidy. There is a need for us as government to ensure that people have the right antenna to get the signal."

The department said an outdoor antenna will cost an estimated R110 and an indoor antenna will cost R45.

This is going to balloon the overall cost of DTT in South Africa, increasing the financial burden on ordinary consumers and TV viewers.

The department did a cost analysis for DTT in 2006 and determined that the entire programme of digital migration would cost South Africa R4.2bn if the migration happened within the three-year period for broadcasters, signal distributors, industry and consumers. "The cost needs to be updated," the department said.

Digital signal not strong enough

"If one could do with just (indoor) antennas or do away with antennas that would have been the ideal situation," the department told parliament.

"Unfortunately in practice this is not possible because we are using the Sentech network. The Sentech network was designed for analogue television. The network is not dense enough to enable the (digital) signal to be strong enough to provide coverage using indoor antennas only. We're sitting with an unfortunate situation whereby certain viewers need outdoor antennas. If we were to try and implement a system for everybody to use indoor antennas, it would mean building a substantial number of transmitting stations. This would not only have cost implications but also for the digital migration timelines involved."

Major confusion

Meanwhile, most ordinary South Africans are clueless about the imminent process of digital migration and what is happening, partly because the government's information and marketing campaign which should have been running for months already collapsed because of a failed government contract.

Roy Padayachie, the minister of communications, called it a "serious issue" and said that "everybody is beginning to pick this up".

"If you go out there very few people really understand what this is all about.

"That is directly related to the previous contractor that was given a R22m contract to run the campaign and ran into problems. That contract got suspended. The department is finalising the legalities of that so that we can settle the matter with that contract. What is being put in place is a new set of measures to implement the marketing strategies. We want to put out a new tender for the marketing campaign."

Thinus Ferreira is a TV media expert. Read his blog here.


  • Born To Fish - 2011-09-21 13:06

    I have DSTV, and do not need ANC1, 2 and 3.

      Rassie - 2011-09-21 13:15

      You forgot about e-ANC !

      Justin Schon - 2011-09-21 13:16

      Still require a TV Licence

      Currie_Mafia - 2011-09-21 13:31

      But please pay your TV licence, Its the right thing to do...

      Pencilgraffiti - 2011-09-21 13:33

      What i don't get is how a South African enterprise who has a dismal reputation to say the very least, who are corrupt, who don't pay their employees, who puts out the minimal to stay afloat and that minimal being the biggest amount of trash can stand infront of the nation and say "PAY UP OR WE WILL CUT YOU OFF!" The SABC can't even manage 3 channels - How the hell are they going to manage 10+? They can't secure a soccer game to broadcast - How are they going to attract advertisers to fill so many channels. This is ZERO business planning and a big big tender cashback for some politician - Guaranteed. If they get a standard reputation as being a responsible broadcaster then maybe they can come with demands...

      James - 2011-09-21 13:36

      HA HA HA .... LOVE the ANC 1,2 & 3 comments ...... So TRUE !! .... I also have DSTV and HD nogal ...... don't need all the other sh*t ....

      Totman - 2011-09-21 13:46

      Why Justin? When it is encrypted and I do not have an account I can't see it. If they insist on the basis that the signals, for any other services, are going through the air than they have to license all these cheap two-way radios as well. A fregency license is very cheap as well. They will lose so much money that they will have to run 1 channel. Maybe 2 and direct it on the poor people because the adds-income will be limited to adds directed directly on certain people. I did not watch SABC once for the last 2 years at least. Not even by mistake. Ok, maybe once or twice put the dstv channel code in wrongly.

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 14:09

      Pay your TV license, JZ is falling behind on maintenance payments

      Ederik - 2011-09-21 14:41

      Select Another Black Channel 1,2,3. And eeeeeeeeeeee-TV

      Ohmikehunt - 2011-09-21 15:41

      The obvious solution is to implement the proposed 1% tax and then they will have enough to fund it.

      Torrac - 2011-09-21 15:54

      No money = No TV = Baby BOOM!!!, perhaps the more concerning factor in all of this.

      AMS-Dammer - 2011-09-21 16:41

      ROFLMAO @ ANC 1, ANC 2 and ANC3.... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!! I do NOT live i SA and have to appear in court for an UNPAID TV License... and I don't even LIVE IN SA!!!!!!!! ROFLMAO!!!!

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 16:49

      @ AMS-Dammer - if you can scan + e-mail them proof of address (ie Holland) and if you still have it, the plane ticket, and failing that your residence permit - they will cancel it. I did the exact same thing. I went to live in NL again and that's how I got the TV License people off my back. Came back 9 months later and simply didn't apply for a new license (and bought a TV at a Mozzie shop so no need to get one either)

  • bill - 2011-09-21 13:06

    more chaos from the anc. they are too incompetent to run a country.even by african standards zuma is a giggling joke.

  • T-1000 - 2011-09-21 13:10

    Maybe the speed limit needs to be cut.

      AMS-Dammer - 2011-09-21 16:44

      QUESTION: If one DOES NOT WATCH TV, NO TV ARIEL or SAT DISH.... and only watches DVD's.... Does one require a TV License???

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 16:50

      Yes... the only TV you can have without a license is one without a tuner. Which you can't really buy...

  • tam - 2011-09-21 13:12

    it seems time to get rid of the tv all together - movies and tv series can be watched on PC's and laptops and are usually about 5 years more current than what is being shown on SABC anyway.

      Observer - 2011-09-21 13:42

      Too true! However, sometimes you want the bigger screen than what laptops etc have. If we don't buy the box thingys, we'll not get reception, right? But then, do we have to still pay a TV license if we have a TV which doesn't have reception? I know I couldn't care about getting SABC-TV, I'd just like the screen, and would watch stuff through a media player.

      Waynne Roberts - 2011-09-21 15:44

      @observer then u just get a ps3 or an xbox and connect ur pc to ur console. Then u can watch whatever u want from ur pc on ur bigger screen

  • Burnicus - 2011-09-21 13:22

    For less money than DTV, rather buy a satellite dish, decoder with full installation and pay R19 a month for the free channels. Perfect signal and you can upgrade anytime to other channel bouquets.

      Valis - 2011-09-21 15:08

      Or just get Top TV, same thing, yet much cheaper.

  • RacerX - 2011-09-21 13:26

    Well, this should be challenged in court to review the requirement to have a TV license. If I don't have their box with or without the fancy encryption system I will not be able to make use of the signal. It would be the same as trying to watch TV on computer screen by plugging it into the wall... I do pay for DSTV, which of course includes some channels - but I pay for them and have the rights to them from my venodor (which is not the SABC and their new box). So who's in for some mass action on this and a class action law suit to get this stupid law changed?

      RacerX - 2011-09-21 13:34

      FROM: Q: Who needs a television licence? A: In terms of the Broadcasting Act, No 4 of 1999, as amended, any person or entity that has in its possession and/or uses a TV set. A licence remains payable, irrespective of whether a television set in one's possession is used or not. Q: What is a television set, as defined in the Broadcasting Act? A: Any device designed or adapted to be capable of receiving a broadcast television signal. That includes a PC fitted with a TV tuner card, or a videocassette recorder (VCR) connected to a monitor or TV screen. My logic says without the box a TV will not be able to receive the broadcast television signal so it is not required to pay SABC license fees :)

      Observer - 2011-09-21 14:20

      I like your logic! Thanks for this posting.

      Valis - 2011-09-21 15:12

      That is brilliant RacerX! So all the people with DSTV and Top TV won't need to pay SABC Tax any more. But this will just be valid from *after* they switch off the analogue signal. And now I can get that big screen TV to stream my Internet feeds to :P

      AMS-Dammer - 2011-09-21 16:45

      SO... watching ANC TV in SA is for those with LEGAL "DOOSES" ONLY!

  • briantw - 2011-09-21 13:26

    Not much technical detail here. Why are the new antennas needed? What frequencies will the DTV service use? VHF? UHF?

      Valis - 2011-09-21 15:15

      It will be the same frequencies. The signal stays the same, only the information it vcarries will be in digital format. The problem is, when you have a weak signal on analogue you still get a picture, albeit a bit fuzzy. The nature of the digital signal is such that if you don't get full strength reception you don't get a picture at all.

  • Captainmorgan - 2011-09-21 13:28

    So , if you can't afford it leave it , nobody died because of no TV.DSTV has become too expensive for me & I stopped it . SIMPLE You can't ride a Mercedes if you can't afFord!!

      James - 2011-09-21 13:37

      ????? .... too much Captian Morgan there buddy ......

      Valis - 2011-09-21 15:16

      Hahahaha! I agree. I stopped DSTV some time ago, not because I couldn't afford it, but because of the complete cr@p they show. Haven't missed it at all. Internet FTW!

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 15:31

      I cut off my DSTV Compact because our place was broken into and the thieves used the dish to enter the flat - now it's trashed. But it was getting rubbish too, loads of repeats. Besides the English football it wasn't good for much else. And full package is not worth R600 a month. Especially not when overseas you get 3x more channels for R400 a month plus uncapped/unshaped Net and cheap phone calls.

  • Robin7 - 2011-09-21 13:28

    Nope, they can come and see if I have a top box/stb/piggy bank. No box = no TV license. Finally a way to get out of funding the SABC!!!!!! Brilliant.

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 15:29

      Yeah I no longer have to worry about the TV license Nazis knocking on my door. Not that they ever have since 2002... hold out with my broken TV set, wait to have S-ANC cut off, then buy a nice flatscreen at China City to get a new TV without license + "fear" of fines?

  • Sisie - 2011-09-21 13:29

    If there is a way that the government can steal your money they will jump on the "good ship lollipop". As far as i am concerned by the time this comes out the cost will be so astronomical that no one can afford it by the Zuma's and Malemas. So please take your TV and shove it right up your orifice.

  • Metalyptica - 2011-09-21 13:33

    How about staying oldschool.. with analog? Problem solved. When this switch-over happens, I'll just chuck that propaganda-box away. Don't need TV. BTW not everyone can afford DSTV.

      RacerX - 2011-09-21 14:25

      I have DSTV (R500 installation) and pay for the basic package which is R120/year - YES PER YEAR. This includes SABC and a few other crappy channels. I got it since reception in my area is quite bad for some channels... and it is cheaper than SABC tvLic, which I do have to pay still..

  • vanwyk.petronel - 2011-09-21 13:34

    well, maybe we will all go back to the olden days... watching the sunset and playing hopscotch... this is becoming quite expensive. How much more money will they pocket from us???

  • Shelagh - 2011-09-21 13:41

    I'm one of the clueless ones, I'm afraid. I have DSTV but live in a complex - will I still need all this stuff??

      Valis - 2011-09-21 15:17


  • Bruce Banner - 2011-09-21 13:48

    commenting on the subsidy...television is a "luxury", NOT a right...if you can't afford the STB...then chances are you can not afford the TV license, in which case you you shouldn't even have a tv...according to the SABC's own rules...

  • Fran - 2011-09-21 14:11

    I am required to pay a Tv licence but most foreigners owns Tv without licences. My guess is that when this digital system comes in they will have gone around it too and get signal to watch for free like they do now. And what about our Pakistani and Chinise brothers who are selling Tv's without licences will they now stop doing so or get pinalised? I pay for everything in my country of birth but foreigners get things for free? Why is that the law of this country is not respected whereas in their country if you commit petty theft is like a BIG crime and you are senteced to 5yrs never mind entering withour proper documentation then you will likely be called a Spy or Terrorsit? Since ANC controls everything we must speak to the President to at least give our elders Citizens free viewing of the Digital.

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 15:25

      "at least give our elders Citizens free viewing of the Digital" No, let's respect our elders and have them cut off instead. SABC induces early death. Yes, the channels are THAT bad...

  • Ralph Long - 2011-09-21 14:13

    errrr........ did they think about cable? I doubt it, too complicated for an ANC brain, such as it is.

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 15:26

      Please no, they'd have to dig up our roads yet again

  • Julius - 2011-09-21 14:26

    Should be a zero cost to all South Africans as the government can sell the bandwidth for huge profit

      Valis - 2011-09-21 15:19

      Excellent point! Bandwidth is like gold dust, and is going to be auctioned off by government. What about all that money? (This is a rhetorical question of course. We all know the money is going to go into their pockets)

  • Ederik - 2011-09-21 14:39

    So they spent R22 million and got nothing in return. Another ANC scam to enrich a buddy?

  • Androgene - 2011-09-21 14:50

    I'd rather eat DDT than watch DTT. On which channels will the re-runs of A Country Imagined be shown again?

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 15:27

      On a positive note, I haven't seen Steven Segal on ETV for ages. Thank goodness for that, was about to buy a gun just to shoot at the TV set

      Neles - 2011-09-21 15:29

      you can find it on a youtube channel if you lucky (or unlucky)

  • PilgrimX - 2011-09-21 14:52

    "only the poorest of South African households..." How do they determine who is the poorest? What qualifies one as poor?

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 15:24

      You already know the answer...

      PilgrimX - 2011-09-21 15:33

      @Matt :-) Yep, but I don't know how to say it...

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 16:51

      OK, try this - would the residents of the white township near Krugersdorp qualify?

      PilgrimX - 2011-09-21 17:10

      @Matt :-) You already know the answer...

  • Neles - 2011-09-21 15:33

    I wonder where DSTV got their facts from that a set top box costs in excess of R700, I know this is a pro-DSTV site but at least get the prices right. Like everyone knows exactly how much it costs to watch DSTV repeats. It's easy to calculate and measure against what you get in return for the monthly cost. Dont even mention a PVR or that boxoffice ripoff. Thank God for uncapped ADSL else I'd have committed suicide by remote a long time ago

  • Torrac - 2011-09-21 15:53

    No money = No TV = Baby BOOM!!!, perhaps the more concerning factor in all of this.

  • BEDONERD - 2011-09-21 15:58


  • 50something - 2011-09-21 16:05

    The poorest of the poor getting subsidised for TV? There is no food on the table, no jobs, no mdeical, no running water, but there is a TV in the shack? I am missing something? Or is it a matter of the ANC too afraid that their propoganda will not reach to poorest of the poor, so those that do not vote ANC will have to pay for it - nice system hey? But I see the path is being paved for a massive repeat of the SWC stadia - vastly inflated costs again. How many of those 11 million are actually paying a TV license?

  • - 2011-09-21 16:15

    I believe that if you need to buy STB and antenna, if i have DSTV i dont need to pay TV licence cause my subscription to DSTV should cover digital signal, and we should have option dependent on if you have DTSV, TOP etc or not...

  • Brainbow - 2011-09-21 16:29

    Dig a bit deeper and you will find corruption behind this nonsense. Take a TV away from the poor who are already suffering and you have just turned up the heat on mass demonstrations and violence. Go Jacob go!

      Matt :-) - 2011-09-21 16:52

      On the positive side, millions of people will no longer have access to ANC propaganda... YAY

  • phillip.rueben - 2011-09-21 19:47


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