e.tv: SA digital TV credibility damaged

2011-09-26 16:24
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – The free-to-air commercial broadcaster e.tv says digital terrestrial television (DTT) in South Africa has had its credibility damaged and warned the government and the country's TV regulator that leadership and speedy action are needed on the issue.

South Africa's TV industry – and thereby TV viewers – must move from analogue broadcasting to a digital system known as DTT, similar to the rest of the world; a process known as digital migration.

Viewers will need to buy a set top box (STB) to continue to receive TV signals, with the SABC, e.tv and M-Net who want to "soft launch" their DTT offerings in April 2012.

"e.tv has had many challenges over its 13 years of existence, but we believe our greatest challenge lies before us – and that is the compulsory migration to DTT," Lara Kantor, senior e.tv executive told parliament regarding digital television in South Africa.

"South African DTT has already seen multiple delays since 2008 when we were first supposed to launch this service. There have been implications because of those delays."

She said that "the project has lost momentum" and that "the project has had its credibility damaged even before it's had a chance to launch and establish itself in the mind of consumers."

3 out of every 4 viewers will need a box

"The broadcasting environment in South Africa has become more competitive – especially in the area of pay TV which has grown significantly and that will make it harder for the DTT platform to establish itself," Kantor said.

"Three out every four South Africans rely on free-to-air television. That means that three out of every four South Africans will need access to a free-to-air DTT STB before analogue transmissions can be switched off.

"Given the growth that we've seen in the satellite TV market in the last few years, free-to-air broadcasters need DTT to succeed for our own future survival. We have an interest in ensuring that the platform is strong."

Leadership needed

e.tv will join the SABC with a soft DTT launch in April 2012, followed by a full commercial launch between July and September 2012, "the date to be confirmed when we are more confident," Kantor said.

"We don't want to raise expectations yet again and not be able to fulfill those," she warned. "We are committed to launching DTT in 2012. We need leadership to resolve matters speedily."

Regarding the government wanting encryption of the free digital TV signals – a function known as STB Control – e.tv said the broadcaster "was asked to work on that system so that government can achieve certain policy goals".

"We do not have any direct benefit from implementing this system as e.tv," Kantor said.

"We believe that as long as there are debates on whether it's required, how much it will cost, and who should own it, we cannot finalise the free-to-air STB standard. As long as that standard is not finalised, manufacturers can't produce boxes and we cannot launch."


  • Ross Ford - 2011-09-26 16:43

    SA needs to commit to the world-wide DTT standard - not something peddled by ANC cadres taking a kick-back from China to manufacture boxes based on their system which is used only in a handful of countries. To have any credibility, the same system adopted by the UK should be used.

      Random Name - 2011-09-26 17:06

      Why use the UK as an example, Ross - you will invoke the use of words like "Imperialist". DVB-T is used by the whole of Europe, most of Asia and Australasia and yes, that includes that small island off France's coast called the UK.

      Freddie One - 2011-09-26 17:40

      @Random Name, Not very good at geography are you? The group of islands of the coast of Brittany are known as the British Isles! They make up two countries, the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is part of the island of Ireland! The UK consists of the rest of the British Isles, scores of them. The largest, or 'greatest, to use the geographic term, of them, is correctly know as Great Britain. This consists of the mainland of England, Wales and Scotland.

      Faiker - 2011-09-26 18:09

      Uh, we are using the system adopted by the UK. DVB-T2 is the evolution of DVB-T and is already in use in the UK on at least 2 channels.

      Random Name - 2011-09-26 19:59

      True, Freddie One. Should have said "those small islands excluding half of one of them". I was trying to satirise the perception that white South Africans are pre-occupied with what the British do by pointing out how insignificant they really are - at least as far as technology goes - in the greater scheme of things. Ross probably meant that we should adopt "that one they use in the UK... I can't remember the name", but it sounded like we should adopt a protocol because it is used in the UK. I couldn't help myself, but I did resist copying Wikipedia's articles on DTT and DBV-T/T2. ;-)

  • Mike or Mpho - 2011-09-26 17:01

    so etv rather be stuck in the past. i am sensing that they are just unwilling to pay for the changeover. grow up E tv!

      GT - 2011-09-26 17:20

      no, they would rather have a regulatory environment run by professionals who can plan long term and deal directly with pressing issues that affect 75% of the viwing public, not cadre deployments who have 1 eye on their Moscow gleaned "journalism" diploma and the other on a possible kickback from the tender.

      Pencilgraffiti - 2011-09-26 17:56

      @ M&M - I agree with E-TV... The SABC has a horrible reputation with wasting money, absolutely no management and let's not forget the lack of any TV quality in the last 5/6/7 years... So for them to tell me that i HAVE to do this or i HAVE to do that is just rediculous. They have started with actually paying their actors repeat fees (Something Multichoice still needs to realise is an international standard) but they still have a long way to go for me to "invest" in ANYTHING they have to sell

  • IsThatAFact - 2011-09-26 17:36

    SABC cannot even get their TV programs showing times correct and what actual programs are showing on tv to what the tv guide indicates,Im sure a 1 year old could do better. I looked at the sabc web page this weekend and what a totally useless site. The time sinc between 1 2 and 3 is also way out and they want to make decisions on DTT what a joke and disgrace.

  • Vince York - 2011-09-26 17:51

    The usual BEE desperate cry for help AGAIN! nothing more, nothing less!

  • Badballie - 2011-09-27 10:20

    There is not NEED to change over to the new standard, the only requirement is the governments need to be able to increase revenue using a new system that will make it difficult to bypass paying license fees. The SABC is a blight on the future of broadcasting and need to be completely shut down. They have very poor viewing choices and are stained with corruption and mismanagement. I personally have not intention of ever paying a TV license for a product I do not and will not ever use.

  • Badballie - 2011-09-27 10:23

    @ FREDDIE ONE:- thanks for the geography lesson oh mighty one, please leave your contact details on the site so that we can get hold of you every time we aren't sure of something.

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