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Date: 27 Oct 2008
Title: More rural areas to access TV, radio services
South Africans living in rural areas, who have never watched television or listened to the radio in their lives, will soon have access to these services over the next few years, writes Proffesor Ndawonde.
Government and its stakeholders have jointly committed themselves to make sure that every South African citizen has access to information via these services.
According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago, about five million people in South Africa have no access to radio and television while more than 200 000 citizens have never watched television or listened to radio in their entire lives.
This has prompted the Department of Communications, SABC and Sentech, a state-owned company, which provides communication solutions and services in South Africa, to partner to bring an end to this problem.
Earlier this year, the three structures made an agreement that will see remote areas without television and radio transmitters receiving these services in the next few years.
The Lower-Power Transmitters Agreement will be retroactive to include the lower-power transmitter expansion in the Central Karoo in the Western Cape as well as the pending expansion in the Kgalagadi area in the Northern Cape.
Speaking to BuaNews, Mr Kganyago said access to information was the legitimate right according to the Constitution and the SABC believes that everyone has a democratic right to have information in whatever form.
"We have received number of applications from various rural communities who have no access to television and radio services and we took this as our liability to ensure that those communities have access to these services."
Mr Kganyago said the agreement will mainly target affected areas and will enable the roll-out of low power transmitters to these areas.
The SABC, he said, would be using the money received from the television license fees that were paid by the public to ensure the initiative is a success.
According to Sentech Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane the three structures were negotiating the terms of a more compressive agreement to govern all low-power transmitter projects which were likely to involve as many as 300 transmitter sites.
"We have given ourselves three years to make sure that we finish more than 300 other sites that have same predicament of having no access to radio or television services.
"Achieving those targets will be tangible evidence of the commitment of these bodies to move closer to Universal Access prior to the 2010 World Cup," she said.
The first launch of this initiative took place in Prince Albert in April this year, resulting in the first-time delivery of radio and television services to the Central Karoo area of Prince Albert and surrounding towns in the Western Cape.
During a recent imbizo the Minister of Communications, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri switched on television and radio transmitters at the Kgalagadi Nodal Point in the rural area of Heuningsvlei in the Northern Cape which enabled more than 65 villages to access television and radio services.
In line with its vision of the Restoration of Human Dignity and Strategic Partnerships and Conversations, SABC's Audience Services Division has contributed R500 000 from the corporation's television license coffers to make the Northern Cape project possible.
A farm worker and mother of three, Nkabetse Mokuuena told BuaNews during the department's imbizo in Heuningsvlei, that her children had never watched a television or listened to a radio before and it was a relief that now they had access to these services.
The 44-year old woman said as a community they did not feel part of the broader South African family as they were not aware about the affairs of the country because they did have access to information.
Speaking at the imbizo, the minister said it was very imperative for South African citizens to have access to information because without it they would not be able to play a meaningful role in the development of the society.
The minister said Sentech, as a strategic national asset of Government, continues to make a major contribution in the drive towards creating an inclusive information society.
"We are concentrating our significant efforts on expanding the analogue TV footprint to ensure that all citizens, especially in the remote areas, have access to television and radio broadcasts," she said. - BuaNews