SA's digital migration process to be challenged in court

South Africa’s long-delayed migration to digital communications technology is expected to go ahead at the end of the month but Media Monitoring Africa’s William Bird said that the country was simply not ready for it.

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on unsplash.com

JOHANNESBURG - Media Monitoring Africa and several organisations are taking legal action against Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni in a bid to intervene in South Africa’s digital migration process, which was initiated more than a decade ago.

The court applicants are challenging the minister’s decision to terminate South Africa’s analogue technology in the Pretoria High Court on Monday morning.

They will argue that the switch to digital will leave millions of South African households who rely on analogue transmission disconnected from free-to-air broadcasters, including the SABC and e.tv, losing access to vital news, information and education.

South Africa’s long-delayed migration to digital communications technology is expected to go ahead at the end of the month but Media Monitoring Africa’s William Bird said that the country was simply not ready for it.

"If the minister goes ahead with her plans, 36% of the poorest of the poor are going to lose all access to television and that's why we're wanting to go to court and try to intervene and prevent the minister from doing it in this particular way," Bird said.

Bird said that while they welcomed the urgency from the goverment, it could not be at the expense of the poor and the free-to-air broadcasting sector.

"I think everyone supports the idea that you want to move ahead and free up the spectrum. What we don't want is for it to be taking place in this fashion, which is in in a very rushed manner where we only heard about the official switch-off date in October last year," Bird said.

With just two weeks until South Africa’s analogue TV signal disconnects, Bird believes that government has not done enough to educate people about digital migration.