Johannesburg - Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri has allayed fears that the new television decoders will be used to switch off viewers who default on licence payments.
The decoders, known as set top boxes, will be needed by viewers who own current analogue TV sets when the country switches off the digital signal in 2011. Currently viewers require an aerial to receive a signal.
Migration to digital television will start in November this year, and the analogue signal will be switched off completely in November 2011, in line with the country's commitments to the International Telecommunications Union.
Free-to-air television operator e.tv and MNet had raised concerns that the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) wanted the decoders to support a feature that will allow it to switch off TV license fee defaulters.
E.tv, which raises its revenue through advertising only, felt that this would impinge on its business as its viewers would be affected if they failed to pay the mandatory SABC license fee of R225 a year.
This week, Matsepe-Casaburri told parliament that viewers will not be switched off, but did not specify whether the decoders will support such a feature as part of its control system.
"The control system will enable communication between broadcasters and the public, and provide for e-government services which can be interactive in the future.
"This set top box control system will not be used to switch off viewers," she said.
On Saturday, e.tv spokesperson Vasilli Vass told City Press that his company would only comment once Casaburri had released her long-awaited digital migration policy document.
"We can't comment at this stage," Vass said.
Earlier this year, President Thabo Mbeki said the government was hoping to provide digital broadcasting to half of the country's population by the end of the year.
- City Press