Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn wants cabinet to “review and reverse” the broadcasting digital migration policy it adopted in March to “break the legal logjam that is crippling South Africa’s migration to digital broadcasting”.
Shinn’s remarks come as South Africa on Wednesday missed the deadline it agreed to with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to complete its migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television. The ITU will no longer protect the country’s analogue broadcasting signals from cross-border interference.
“South Africa’s retarded digital terrestrial television process has been riddled with political interference and incompetence for a decade,” Shinn said in a statement. “The latest legal challenge to migration focuses on the lack of encryption capability for the set-top boxes to be locally produced to South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) specifications.”
Shinn said it is “widely believed” that the decision by cabinet — and advanced by communications minister Faith Muthambi — to remove encryption in the set-top boxes was done to “favour pre-selected set-top box suppliers and the effective duopoly of the SABC and MultiChoice”. She said the controversial amendment to the policy was done without consulting the public.
E.tv has now taken Muthambi to court challenging the final policy. A judgment is expected soon.
“The current legal challenge by e.tv, which believes lack of encryption capabilities jeopardises its financial sustainability, is delaying the assembly and sale of SABS-standard set-top boxes to South Africans with analogue TV sets,” Shinn said.
“South Africa cannot be held up by a policy that contradicts itself, is clearly anticompetitive as well as being contrary to the policy of the governing party and its alliance partners,” she said.
“The DA calls on cabinet to recognise its error in approving this policy and to reverse it so that our country can fast-track the digital TV process and take advantage of the economic and service delivery potential that the freed-up analogue broadcast spectrum offers for wireless broadband connectivity, and the expansion of broadcasting ownership, content and viewer choice.” — © 2015 NewsCentral Media