Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn has urged communications minister Faith Muthambi to accept the judgment of the supreme court of appeal over the long-running battle over encryption of free-to-air digital terrestrial television signals in South Africa.
“I urge minister Muthambi not to contemplate further legal action as this would merely exacerbate South Africa’s much-delayed switch-off of analogue broadcasting signals so the airwaves can be released for mobile broadband communications,” Shinn said in a statement.
Free-to-air broadcaster e.tv won the battle against the minister’s 2015 amendment of government’s broadcasting digital migration policy at the appeal court.
The supreme court of appeal found that the amendment did not follow a process of consultation and was irrational and in breach on the principle of legality. The court found, too, that the amendment did not achieve its purpose and was thus irrational and invalid. Muthambi purported to bind regulatory authorities and broadcasters and therefore acted beyond her powers.
The judgment is particularly scathing of Muthambi’s failure to consult with communications regulator Icasa and the Universal Service & Access Agency of South Africa over the amendment, but it also lashed her for failing to consult with e.tv and other interested industry role players before amending the policy.
Shinn said on Wednesday that e.tv’s court victory will allow free-to-air television broadcasters to protect quality programming from being pirated.
“This means South Africans will have the freedom to choose competitive, affordable, quality TV programming from a diversity of broadcasters,” she said.
Muthambi must now redo the tender process to procure the competitively priced, encrypted set-top boxes from as many local electronics manufacturers as possible so qualifying poor households can receive the decoders, Shinn said.
The minister must also “break her silence and detail what steps she has taken to secure adequate funding for the procurement set-top boxes, their installation and support”.
So far, national treasury, at the end of 2014, had only approved R2,4bn of the R4,3bn needed to buy 5m set-top boxes, she said. — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media