16 Nov South Africa – Big Positive Step Towards Creating Radio Digitisation Framework
Following from the publication of its policy on sound broadcasting digitisation in July (https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/202007/43514gon759.pdf), the South African regulator has worked hard and just published draft regulations on how this policy can become reality (https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/202011/43900gen639.pdf).
South Africa is the first country in Africa and the world which has recommended both DRM (AM and FM) and DAB+ as standards (jointly called Digital Sound Broadcasting or DSB) to be used in digitising the terrestrial audio services of this large country. The draft regulations aim at setting out the framework for the introduction of DSB. They also set out the procedure to be used in order to acquire a digital license. This will have to be followed by public, commercial and community stations and also refers to licensed signal distribution operators.
In actual fact, the draft regulations published on November 13th refer to multi-channel distributors required to have a network license and also a (RF) spectrum license in order to be able to distribute several channels. This is a bit of code for those who wish to go DAB+ on 214-240 MHZ by using a mux operator. These applicants also need to check if there is availability of capacity on a mux. If so, a license will have to be granted by ICASA, the regulator, or rather by the newly created the DSB technical advisory group (DTAG) which will oversee the process. Those in control of their infrastructure, which DRM offers without any intermediary, will also need a spectrum license and the approval of the DTAG.
As this is only a consultative document for now, it is to be seen what the South African broadcasters’ reaction will be and if there are some objections to the rather long time timeframe for receiving a digital broadcast approval/license (2 years) and the actual start of the digital broadcasts (2 years again).
The first steps towards digitisation are to be made in simulcast, as the switch off date of analogue will be decided by the Ministry in Pretoria. The November 2020 Draft on DSB Regulations is a big step forward on the way to South African radio digitisation. The actual framework will become reality once it is finalised and officially published in 2021.