Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BREAKING. SABC to launch its digital terrestrial television (DTT) offering from April 2012; busy digitising playout suites.

The SABC will launch its digital terrestrial television (DTT) service in April 2012 the public broadcaster told parliament today which will consist of 18 TV channels - 17 TV channels and one interactive video service channel - and 18 SABC radio stations plus Channel Africa.

''We foresee that with DTT every household within our coverage will receive 18 TV channels – 17 linear TV channels and one interactive video service channel, including SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 – 18 SABC radio stations plus Channel Africa,'' Lumko Mtimde, chairperson of the technology committee of the SABC board, told parliament.

ALSO READ: TOLDJA! SABC planning to broadcast 18 TV channels and all its radio services when it starts digital terrestrial television (DTT) services.

The estimated 11 million TV households in South Africa will have to buy a set top box (STB) when the South African TV broadcasting industry switch from analogue to digital broadcasting, a process known as digital migration.

''The SABC's DTT coverage was according to our earlier targets expected to reach 74% of the population, but we understand after discussions that we may have to revise that target to 70% coverage by April 2012, 84% by April 2013, and 92% by December 2013,'' said Lumko Mtimde.

''The SABC has devised a channel line-up that for instance include the following channels: a health channel, sport, education and SMME channel and children's channel. The other possible channels are the 24 hour news channel. We're also supposed to have two regional channels, a regional north channel and regional south channel, and certainly in terms of the opportunity presented by DTT we will be able to add those regional channels into our bouquet,'' Lumko Mtimde said.

''The SABC will also use the functionality of DTT to provide the following services: closed captioning (on-screen subtitles) in multiple languages that can be accessed by the set top box's remote control, multiple language soundtracks up to four different audio tracks which can be provided per programme, audio description to provide contextual information in programmes, interactive applications which will assist with e-government services,'' Lumko Mtimde told parliament.

''The SABC is on track and we're making good progress,'' Richard Waghorn, the SABC's chief technology officer said. ''The SABC is working and preparing for a soft launch of DTT in April 2012. We will have content ready for April 2012 for a soft launch.''

He said that the SABC worked under the assumption that ''the full channel line-up that we have, is subject to funding [from government]''.

''The SABC's intention is also not to make all of TV channels available at the launch of DTT immediately. The availability of STBs will still be very small. The intention is to ramp up the launch of channels as STBs increases within the market. We will have a phased launch in the market through the following two to three years,'' Richard Waghorn told parliament.

The SABC's DVB-T2 trial will also be extended to Cape Town in early 2012 in advance of the April 2012 soft launch window of DTT.

The SABC is currently also upgrading all the public broadcaster's play out centres, called final control centres (FCC). They're all being digitised with SABC1 which just went operational.

''Over the course of the next few months we're digitising the remaining three playout suites so that they will be fully digital by March 2012. Then we will have a full digital playout chain. Our existing master control room will also be digitised. That infrastructure will be ready by early March 2013,'' Richard Waghorn said.