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ICASA WANTS INCENTIVES FOR VIEWERS TO GO DIGITAL

The Independent Communications Authority of SA has proposed the creation of a Digital Television Content Advisory Group to advise on the most effective ways to ensure the supply of digital TV content

THE Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa ) has proposed the creation of a Digital Television Content Advisory Group to advise on the most effective ways to ensure the supply of digital TV content, and to encourage consumers to acquire the set-top boxes needed to receive digital TV services, it said on Friday.

Broadcasters e.tv, M-Net and the SABC are racing to complete the migrating from analogue TV broadcasting to digital by June 2015. The migration to a digital platform will result in more TV channels, as well as improved picture quality.

The proposal is contained in the draft digital terrestrial TV (DTT) regulations, released on Friday, which aim to provide a framework to ensure the “smooth migration” of analogue TV services to digital.

Consumers will need set-top boxes to convert the digital signal into something their TV can display, but the government has yet to appoint companies that will manufacturer the se boxes. The commercial launch of the digital platform is expected in the third quarter of this year. But there are concerns that take-up of the service might be slow as consumers do not yet understand what DTT is all about.

Icasa is of the view that the screening of original content during prime time on new digital TV channels is essential to provide the stimulus for viewers to get set-top boxes and migrate to the DTT platform.

Icasa “wants to test an interim solution using original TV content to encourage viewers to acquire set-top-boxes, and to set minimum requirements for local TV content” on digital incentive channels and new digital channels.

Channels will be allocated to existing and new broadcasters during the dual illumination period or until such time as the South African local television content regulations are amended, Icasa said. Dual illumination refers to simulcast broadcasting of TV channels in both analogue and digital format.

Icasa has also proposed using the second mobile DTT multiplex as a third DTT multiplex during the dual illumination period to “accommodate new entrants, and to stimulate the uptake of DTT services, foster content and enhance consumer choice”, according to the draft.

A multiplex refers to distinct blocks of transmission capacity that carries a bouquet of digital channels. One multiplex can carry up to eight channels. The SABC and community broadcasters will share the first multiplex while the second multiplex has been allocated to e.tv, M-Net and for test and trial licences.

Broadcasters have until the end of the month to make written submissions, but Icasa will not hold public hearings on the regulations.

Source: Business Day – Thabiso Mochiko