South Africa is part of a small list of countries that have failed to even get out of the starting blocks regarding digital migration, according to an international body, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.|South Africa is part of a small list of countries that have failed to even get out of the starting blocks regarding digital migration, according to an international body, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.
In 2006, South Africa and other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa committed to meeting an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline to switch over to digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasting on June 17 2015. The ITU is a specialised agency tasked by the United Nations to focus on information and communication technologies.
Digital migration involves shifting broadcasters from analogue to digital signals, and the process is key for opening up more frequencies and faster mobile broadband services.
South Africa’s digital migration process has however been stalled by disagreements among broadcasters. Also, President Jacob Zuma’s splitting of the former Department of Communications last year reportedly resulted in a turf war among ministries over the control of the digital migration process.
Subsequently, the ITU lists South Africa among nations that have failed to even start a digital migration process. South Africa then joins non-starter digital migration countries which include Armenia, Bangladesh, Belize, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and Turkey.
Namibia and Turkey are reported to have started their digital migration processes in the meantime. However, Sanjay Acharya – who is the chief of media relations and public information at the ITU – told Fin24 that the ITU’s data on non-starters is based on regular updates from administrators in each country.
Consequences for countries that have missed the ITU digital migration deadline include having to deal with signal clashes between analogue and digital, Acharya said.
“They will have an obligation to immediately resolve any harmful interference that may occur, either affecting neighbouring countries that have implemented the transition or emanating from other sources,” he told Fin24.
“And they will have abrogated their right to international protection,” Acharya said.
The risk of signal interference in South Africa is highest along the country’s borders. ITU data already indicates that Mozambique has completed its digital migration process, while the process is ongoing in Zimbabwe and Botswana.
The ITU data further states that Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi are the only African countries to have confirmed that they have completed their digital migration projects. These countries have joined the likes of Western Europe, the US and Australia in achieving digital migration success.
Meanwhile, other African countries where the ITU says the digital migration process is still ongoing include: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Government speaks up
Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi released a statement this week regarding the ITU deadline.
News24 reported that Muthambi conceded that South Africa will miss the ITU’s digital migration deadline, and that there is a risk of signal disruptions along South Africa’s borders.
However, in a bid to reduce the risk of signal interference, Muthambi said she had signed agreements of cooperation with Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. The minister added that Namibia and Zimbabwe are finalising their agreements with South Africa.
Muthambi further said that there would be no “major negative impact” on South Africa’s analogue television services near the country’s borders.
“The digital migration project management office is hard at work to ensure that set-top boxes are manufactured and delivered to complete the migration process,” said Muthambi.
Set-top boxes are the devices needed to decode digital signals for analogue television sets.
Earlier this year, Fin24 reported that 26 bidding organisations have each won a piece of South Africa’s R4.3bn set-top box tender.
State agency the Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa is tasked with ensuring that 5 million poorer households receive the subsidised set-top boxes.
Planet Radio TV tune in on any device
Planet Radio TV plans to be Africa’s first online broadcaster that allows its listeners to watch via Internet and satellite TV as well as listen via FM or Internet radio. SEAN BACHER visits its studios.
Planet Radio TV (PRTV) is broadcast much like any other terrestrial radio station, allowing its users to tune into it with a standard FM tuner. But its owner, Planet Image Productions, is about to launch two other means of tuning into the station.
In the coming month, MultiChoice will place a new satellite in orbit that will, by the new year, allow Planet to broadcast to subscribers via the satellite. Planet has also announced the PRTV app, which can be downloaded to Apple, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile devices, allowing users to stream the content to their phones and tablets.
‚”What makes this unique though is that our systems will automatically detect a user’s connection speed and stream content in a format that suits that speed, says Planet Image CEO Wale Akinlabi. ‚”For example, someone connecting through 3G will be able to view high-definition video and hear high-definition audio. A user with a slower connection will still be able to view and listen to the station, but at a lower quality.‚”
This, he believes, will eliminate the buffering issue which discourages many users from streaming video and audio to their devices.
The radio station comprises 80% African music, with the remainder being international, and is targeted at Africa’s youth.
‚”At PRTV we intend to change the way consumers view, listen and interact with television, radio and Internet mediums,‚” says Mabel Mabaso, chief operations officer and director at Planet Image. ‚”It is an exciting platform that synchronises three mediums, providing opportunities for consumers and advertisers alike.‚”
Planet RadioTV differentiates itself from other local broadcasters with its clever use of software and hardware. Planet Image uses a high-definition video-graphics (HDVG) rendering program, designed by Orad, an Israeli company specialising in TV production software. This software suite, combined with four Panasonic high-definition cameras, is able to detect and focus on a person’s voice. When the camera fixes on a voice, that camera is automatically activated and begins broadcasting. Should someone else begin talking, a separate camera will detect the voice and focus on that person.
The software controlling the cameras also performs basic video editing. Mabaso says that, although the initial cost of the equipment was more than that of standard cameras, it will prove well worth it, as it eliminates the need for a dedicated cameraman filming the show in the studio.
‚”Another payoff is that we don’t need that much office space,‚” she says.
Based in Randburg in Johannesburg, the studio is small in comparison to most others and the control room is just big enough for one person.
‚”The control room merely serves as a back-up should one of the cameras fail. It also allows us to control when and where visual adverts appear.‚”
The system is also tightly integrated with applications like Skype.
‚”We can interview someone overseas without having to send a crew there to perform recording. We simply communicate via Skype, making the interviewee’s Internet camera an extension of our own in-studio cameras.‚”
Besides featuring local and international music, the station has regular fashion, food and cooking, music and culture segments, which are broadcast to around 30 000 listeners around Africa.
Rounding up the technology aspect, PRTV has integrated Twitter and Facebook, allowing its listeners to interact with DJs.
Listeners can tune into Planet Radio TV by logging onto www.planetradio.co.za
* Follow Sean Bacher on Twitter on @SeanBacher
Canon EOS M – small and simple
Canon has extended the EOS range with the EOS M, its first compact system camera. Although not yet available in South Africa, the EOS M offers DSLR quality images and full HD recording in a compact, easy to use device.
Canon has expanded the EOS range with the launch of the EOS M. The company’s first ever compact system camera (CSC), the EOS M offers DSLR-quality imaging and full HD movie creation in a compact and easy-to-use model.
The EOS M is available in sleek black, glossy white, stylish silver or bold red colours, and condenses Canon’s EOS imaging heritage into a stylish, compact design. The model launches alongside two new lenses, the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake and the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom, as well as a new compact EX Speedlite the Speedlite 90EX. For those who want to push their images even further, the EOS M can also use Canon’s range of EF lenses with the new Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, for even more creative freedom.
The quality of a Canon DSLR
The EOS M’s high-resolution, 18 megapixel APS-C hybrid CMOS sensor also allows you to blur the background for beautiful portraits, or for close-ups with impact.
With the inclusion of Canon’s DIGIC 5 processor, colours ‚’pop’ and skin tones are beautifully natural, while a super-fast shutter allows you to capture split-second action.
Shoot what you see and easily express your creative vision
Every aspect of the EOS M has been designed to make it simple to capture high-quality images. With the high-resolution, 7.7cm (3.0‚”), Clear View LCD II Touch screen, the EOS M gives you as much or as little control over your photos as desired. Simply select different shooting modes and settings via the on-screen icons, or let Scene Intelligent Auto adjust the camera settings according to the subject and shooting conditions, leaving you free to focus on composition and selecting the perfect moment to hit the shutter release button.
Turn film-maker with EOS Movie and Video Snapshot
When a moment calls for more than a still image, the EOS M lets you switch to Full HD video with stereo sound.
Extending the EOS System with dedicated accessories
In addition to compatibility with Canon’s existing EF lenses, accessories and Speedlites, the EOS M launches with its own range of accessories. Two new EF-M lenses offer portability and high performance when using the new model the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom and the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake lens. Both feature new stepper motor technology for exceptionally smooth AF performance, as well as precision Canon optics, while their compact designs offer the perfect form-factor to complement the camera’s pocket-sized body.
Additionally, the EOS M will ship with the new Speedlite 90EX flash unit as standard. Lightweight and highly-compact, it offers a maximum guide number of nine and supports wide-angle lenses, making it an ideal general-purpose flash for everyday use. A wireless master function also allows the control of multiple flash guns wirelessly, allowing more advanced users to experiment with a range of creative lighting effects.
EOS M key features
¬∑ The quality of a digital SLR in a compact body
¬∑ Scene Intelligent Auto
¬∑ Be versatile with interchangeable lenses
¬∑ Create out-of-focus backgrounds for high impact
¬∑ Easy-to-use touch-screen
¬∑ Atmospheric photos in low light
¬∑ Full-HD video with Video Snapshot Mode