SABC lacks digital TV skills – audit

2014-02-05 16:08
Cape Town – The SABC is not ready to deliver multiple additional digital TV channels and has huge challenges to overcome in terms of the skills necessary to successfully do the looming switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT), a process known as digital migration.

An independent skills audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) of SABC staff found that the South African public broadcaster is lacking in the necessary skills for digital migration and beyond.

The SABC intends to broadcast several more TV channels besides the current SABC1, SABC2, SABC3 and SABC News when the country switches to a new digital broadcasting dispensation for which viewers will have to buy a set-top box (STB) costing around R800 to continue watching public television.

The SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo who just resigned from the public broadcaster but isn’t even willing to give reasons or explain why – as well as Hlaudi Motsoeneng as acting chief operating officer (COO) together with other SABC top executives and board members – appeared in front of parliament’s portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday to answer about the skills audit.

The SABC told parliament on Tuesday that the skills levels of SABC staff for digital television will be "topped up".

The committee was shocked with the findings of the skills audit, which committee members described as "very worrying", "disconcerting" and "a reality check".

"Everytime we go to the SABC they say we just need to flip the switch and we've gone digital with television. No. You haven't. You don't have the skills. You don't have the equipment,” said Marian Shinn, the DA's member of parliament and shadow minister of communications.

"The archive hasn't even started going digital. You don't even yet know if you're going to do your digital content production internally or externally – apart from news and sport which you're going to be doing internally," said Shinn.

‘Why do you keep saying you can do this when you clearly can’t?’

"One wonders why you keep saying you can do this when clearly you can't. The archive is going nowhere digitally. And it has an impact with the deal with MultiChoice which basically went into the deal with you so they could access your archives. And you haven't even started with that."

"And you should have gone live with your SABC Entertainment TV channel in November 2013 which was going to use those archive material. So what exactly have you guys been doing for the past eight years?"

Motsoeneng, who doesn’t have a matric qualification and is the broadcaster’s second highest executive, said the SABC is ready for switch-on for DTT.

"We can switch it today. We are also producing soapies that you see – the Generations, your Muvhango's and others – so we have people with skills set at SABC".

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