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People’s Media Consortium
Press Release
24 May 2022

The #SaveFreeTV campaign calls on the Constitutional Court bench to consider the plight of the poor facing a TV blackout if analogue broadcasting is switched off too soon.

Reflecting on the proceedings of the constitutional court case led by eTV to postpone the switch-off of analogue television, the #SaveFreeTV campaign believes that its vision of preserving free-to-air television access has been clearly stated by the litigants.

South Africa’s free-to-air commercial broadcaster, eTV along with the NGOs SOS and MMA, is seeking a sensible solution to the problem that there are critical failures with the government’s handling of the broadcast digital migration which will leave millions of TV viewers in the dark when the analogue signals are switched off. There are practical ways of handling this transition in a way which ensures that access to information via television is secured for the poor and this is what we want to see Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni commit to an open, transparent and inclusive process to achieve this. Minister Ntshavheni must comply with her constitutional obligations to respect, protect and promote citizens’ rights to access to information.

eTV is SA’s only non-government, free-to-air national broadcaster, so the state must ensure that the public has access to impartial and accurate information. Minister Ntshavheni was appointed to her post in September 2021 and almost immediately announced a switch-off date just six months later. 

People were only given three days to register which was not enough. The consultation was done only with the national broadcasters but not with the general public and organisations such as SOS and MMA, experts in the field which would have added value to the discussions. We reject the Minister’s assertion that she had no duty to consult. 

The process to determine the number of people who need the subsidised decoders was not reliable because with Covid the number can be more. People were given three weeks to register which is insufficient time. The process was rushed and no valid reason has been provided for the ASO date. 

The Minister’s source of power comes as a policy decision and the ECA states that consultations must be done. It will take about two years for installations to be done but we demand that all 3.7 million indigent households (1.2 million registered and 2.5 million not yet registered) must have their government-supplied decoders installed before analogue broadcasts are completely switched-off. 

The government claims that those who have not registered will be registered in 2-6 months but we cannot trust that because even the deadlines the Minister sets aren’t realistic and the department has been failing to meet the targets that it set. We hope that the court will take the plight of poor South Africans into consideration and agree to rerun the registration and consultation processes.

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#SaveFreeTV convened by Peoples Media Consortium, Right2Know, SOS Coalition & Cape Town TV