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Switch allows Free State to enjoy benefits of digital viewing

South African government has launched digital television.
South African government has launched digital television.

South Africa has officially switched from analogue to digital with the Free State being the first province to enjoy the benefits of an increased number of TV channels.

Communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Free State premier Sisi Ntombela and Sentech launched the digital set-top boxes in Senekal on Wednesday. These allow for better signal and television channels for viewers.

There is about 887 analogue transmitters across South Africa and 41 of these are in Free State. According to Mokonyane, the analogue transmitters in Free State will be switched off by December 31.

"We need an opportunity to diversify and have an inclusive television that is not necessarily dependent on a pay-TV, but more of a free-to-air [model] because access to information, diversification of information and entertainment will contribute to nation-building and social cohesion," she said.

Set-top boxes decode digital signals for analogue television sets and the government plans to distribute these devices to about 5-million poor households. Mokonyane said the majority of poor households should not be limited to viewing television channels because of their financial situation.

"Quality does not depend on your income, quality must be for everybody and anybody in South Africa because the country belongs to all those who live in it."

The SABC's initial digital terrestrial television offering will now consist of 18 channels including SABC1, SABC2, SABC3 as well as the SABC News (DStv channel 404). South African households who earn less than R3200 a month qualify to get a free, government-subsidised set-top box, but other people outside this category will need to register and apply for these set-top boxes at the post office.

Applicants will need an ID, proof of residence and proof of income to apply.

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