By Nonceba Soul –
The Free State is laying the ground for a seamless transition to digital broadcasting platform when the province switches off the analogue system on 31 December this year.
To this end, the national Department of Communication in collaboration with the Free State Provincial Government, is hosting a three-day colloquium that kicked off today at Pacofs in Bloemfontein whose objective is to deliberate on ways to ensure that a smooth switch-over to the digital terrestrial television (DTT) becomes a reality.
The Free State is set to be the first province to go digital in a move that is envisaged to have the capacity to create a variety of economic opportunities for residents of the province. The DTT process is also set to afford a platform for more television channels.
“We need to ask ourselves how do we collectively ensure that the switch from analogue to digital is a smooth one but most importantly, how do we ensure that it contributes to the betterment of our people and the relentless fight against poverty and unemployment in the province,” said Oupa Khoabane, the Free State MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) who delivered a speech on behalf of the Free State Premier, Sisi Ntombela, at the official opening of the Colloquium.
The Premier also added that as the Free State province has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country, those involved in the digital roll-out project should ensure that 90 percent of jobs created should be for people living in the province.
The DTT is the compression of digital content resulting in multiple channels being transmitted on one frequency.
“For example, every day we watch SABC 1, 2, 3 and eTV and we know every channel has its frequency which it broadcasts on, that means we have so much space but the broadcasting is so little, so the DTT is compressing all these channels onto one platform,” said Dr Mashilo Boloko, the Acting Director General in the Department of Communication.
Digitalisation will result in viewers with the old television sets which are not digitally-enabled will fail to receive any signal when the analogue system is switched off. Such viewers will have a decoder or the set-top boxes which are currently being distributed free of charge to households with an income of R3 500 or less per month.
According to Tsietsi Ramosidi from South African Postal Office (SAPO), registration for the free set-top boxes in the province currently stands 71% in Lejweleputswa, 66% in Thabo Mofutsanyane, 61% in Fezile Dabi, 50% in Gariep and 30% for the Motheo district.