Media Release: ASO Date Unconstitutional – A win for access to information, a win for democracy!

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MEDIA STATEMENT

29 June 2022

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS)
welcome the judgement by the Constitutional Court that the implementation of the process
to switch off the analogue signal by the Minister of Communication and Digital
Technologies, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni is deemed to be tainted with irrationality and
therefore unconstitutional, invalid, and set aside.

The court undertook to safeguard the wellbeing of the millions of people who otherwise
would have been plunged into darkness and deprived of the basic right to freedom of
expression and that of access to information. This is due to the Minister’s decision not to
give adequate notice, and failure to engage in a public consultation process with the
affected parties and the media sector.

The ruling of the constitutional court is in accordance with MMA and SOS’s argument that
the registration process to secure a set top box (STB) was defective with no robust public
communication, which goes against the objective of allowing the indigent households to
duly register. The court also acknowledged that the indigent who registered after the 31
October 2021 deadline would experience television blackout for 3-6 months after the
analogue switch off.

Moreover, the court had it that the initial Analogue Switch Off (ASO) date of 31 March 2022,
set by the Minster is not justified and thus unlawful. As such, by default, 30 June 2022
deadline falls on the wayside.

The judgment states that leave to appeal directly to the Constitutional Court on an urgent
basis is granted and the appeal is upheld. The High Court ruling is set aside, and this court
has ordered that the ASO date and the end of dual illumination pronounced by the Minister
in terms of the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy (as amended) is unconstitutional,
invalid and is set aside. The same applies to the Minister’s decision to impose the 31
October 2021 deadline for the indigent to register for free set-top boxes.

The judgement is welcomed as a win for democracy. It is a win for people who otherwise
would have lost critical means of access to information. However, the goal is to complete
the process of digital migration effectively, efficiently, and with ensuring that those who still

rely on analogue signal to access information, to be migrated to digital without any
interruption of receiving a signal. This judgement gives government an opportunity to
ensure that a fair and complete process unfolds, and that no communities are excluded
from the migration process.

MMA and SOS will be paying close attention to the renewed process, and we call on the
Minister to ensure that adequate, meaningful public consultation is held and the process of
a just and fair digital migration, finally realised.

 

For more information, please contact:

Thandi Smith
Head of Programmes (Media Monitoring Africa)

+27734707306

Uyanda Siyotula
National Coordinator (SOS Coalition)

+27606912462

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