About sixmillion families without digitally compliant TV sets will be unable to view soccer games.

Six million South African families will miss out on full coverage of the Confederations Cup and the soccer World Cup being played in their own country because their TV sets are not digitally compliant.

When the Confederations Cup kicks off in June, only people with pay television subscriptions will be able to watch all the matches live.

This is because their decoders will be able to convert an analogue signal to the digital one.

Kaizer Kganyago, spokesman for the SABC, said: “Between now and 2011, we will have dual illumination of both digital and analogue signals, then the analogue signal will be switched off.”

In November last year, the Department of Communications switched on the first of several legislated digital transmitters destined for use by South Africa’s free-to-air viewers.

The move marked the launch of a nine-month trial that will end in July when the trial licence expires. The trial includes the SABC, e.tv and M-Net.

The limited scope of analogue television will mean that poorer households will not be able to watch repeat screenings and extensive highlights and some games might be shown delayed, as was done by the public broadcaster during the last World Cup.

“Most people will be watching on analogue,” Kganyago said.

This means people will be unable to watch the four extra channels that are already being aired on the trial channel.

About 3000 people were identified for the trial but, according to Marius Du Plessis, the deputy chairman of the Southern African Digital Broadcasters’ Association, only hundreds are now testing the technology.

Du Plessis said: “For now, 400 [M-Net] decoders have been deployed. By the end of February more will be deployed.

“It will be a long process before we see a market launch. First, technical specifications need to be approved, then the national specifications.

None of these processes has been completed,” he said.

AUTHOR: Zweli Mokgata