The government has injected R780 million in to the Universal Access Services Agency to subsidise the decoders that will be used to convert the television analogue signal into digital, writes Thabiso Mochiko in Business Report.

Last year broadcasters started with the process of changing the old analogue television signal into digital to conform with the requirements of the International Telecommunications Union.

The benefits of the digital system include quality pictures and fewer TV reception problems. The move will also result in the addition of new TV channels.

The government has promised to pay the R2.45 billion subsidy to 5 million households that cannot afford the decoders.

There are 3 million households on government social grants and a further 2 million households earning less than R3 200 a month.

Each decoder is expected to cost an estimated R700.

This means the government will pay up to 70 percent, while households will be expected to raise the rest.

The government aims to switch off the analogue system in November 2011, however there have been concerns that the deadline might not be achieved. The SA Bureau of Standards has yet to finalise the technology specifications for the decoders.

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