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Press Release
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The South African Communications Forum (SACF) applauds Cabinet decision on Digital Migration

Posted by SACF on 05-12-2013

For Immediate Release

The South African Communications Forum (SACF) applauds Cabinet decision on Digital Migration

SACF commends the Cabinet for their decision that the Set Top Boxes (STB) to be used in the subsidized STB market will have a control system to protect Government’s investment in the subsidized STB’s market and the local electronics industry. In SACF’s view the inclusion of a control system in the Set Top Box to be used for Digital Migration will promote industrial development, job creation, access to information and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

SACF CEO Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha stated “We appreciate that Government had to seriously weigh numerous factors and criteria when considering whether or not to include a control system in the subsidized Set Top Box. In the end, as SACF we believe that the Government chose a balanced approach which takes into account the interests of all parties, including Government itself which will be paying for the subsidized set top boxes. SACF hopes that as Cabinet has urged, all parties can now move on from their previous differences and work together with the Government in rolling out Digital Migration.

The SACF CEO noted “I hope that we are now able to speedily move forward with Digital Migration without any further hindrances and delays. Now that this issue has been decided by Cabinet it is in the country’s interest that all parties now focus on implementation.”

SACF notes the inclusion of a control system on the STB was mandatory under the SABS STB Specifications (SANS 862) and to have removed the control system would have caused at least an additional 6 – 9 month delay in implementing Digital Migration as removal will require the re-convening of specific bodies such as the South African MHEG5 Project for the MHEG file implications; the reconvening of the same members of the TC74 and its Working Group (under SABS) for the rewording of the STB Specifications (SANS 862) to exclude the STB control system. The time and cost risks involved in revising the SABS standards for removing control access from the STB would have led to even greater losses for the South African Electronic Manufacturing Industry.

The inclusion of a control system will also support the provision of internet access on the STB that was, itself, a subject of debate and controversy. The strong motivation for the inclusion of the so-called “return path” for internet access was for various departments of Government to be able to communicate their services and messages to TV households. The control system, as a broadcast operator’s management tool, completes the efficacy of the eGovernment services to be offered. The operator would be able to send “targeted messages” where a connected household could respond accordingly.

SACF fully considered the BEE implications of implementing control access and has been an advocate for lowering the bar so that control access does not become a hindrance to emerging and new entrant manufacturers gaining experience in manufacturing Set Top Boxes in South Africa. Currently SACF represents six Set Top Box Manufacturers in its Industrial Development Working Group, all of which have significant black ownership and are certified at level 2 or 3 for BEE rating. SACF has engaged vigorously to ensure that emerging manufacturers who would like to participate are not shut out of the Government order for subsidised Set Top Boxes as well as any commercial opportunities.

Contact:

Loren Braithwaite Kabosha,
Executive Director,
SACF
loren@sacomforum.org.za
011 315 0590
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