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DRM Welcomes South Africa Digital Policy Statement

Calls it “a momentous decision for the African continent” and a first for digital audio broadcasting

Digital Radio Mondiale is welcoming a policy statement from the government of South Africa about digital radio.

“This is a momentous decision for South Africa [and] the African continent and represents a first for digital audio broadcasting anywhere, as it brings together in one policy the two ITU-recommended open digital radio standards, DRM and DAB+,” DRM wrote in a press release from Chairman Ruxandra Obreja.

DRM was reacting to a directive from Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications and digital technologies, regarding the introduction of digital sound broadcasting in South Africa. It recommends both DRM, for AM and FM bands, as well as DAB+.

Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams
Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams is South Africa’s minister of communications and digital technologies.

“The directive is based on the regulatory South African acts, the ITU Radio Regulations of 2016, the Southern African Development Community band plans and the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy,” DRM wrote in a summary.

“Its aim is to provide a licensing framework and optimum allocation of radio frequencies for the South African three-tier system of public, commercial and community broadcasting services.” The goal is to stimulate local industry in the manufacturing of digital receivers and encourage investment in broadcasting.

“This is both a positive sign and strong encouragement to the broadcasting sector to attain the goals of universal service and access to all,” DRM continued.

“With this pragmatic and pioneering recommendation, the South African citizens will be free to consume an ingenious and complete digital platform through which they can access education, achieve social change and attain economic empowerment.”

The statement directs the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to “determine priorities for the establishment of digital broadcasting networks and services in the frequency bands allocated for these services, to introduce DSB services alongside the existing analog services.” The authority is to “encourage market availability and use of multi-standard receivers to allow for the continued use of analog FM alongside DAB and DRM.”

The recommendations are Digital Radio Mondiale to complement analog AM service in the medium-wave band (535.5–1606.5 kHz) and analog FM services in VHF band-II (87.5–108 MHz); and to be deployed in the allocated VHF band-III (214–230 MHz). DAB+ transmissions would complement those in the allocated VHF band-III (214–230 MHz).

Obreja said the recommendation of two open digital radio standards together in a large country is notable, and that regulatory authorities in South Africa now can move forward with licensing.