Despite a supreme court of appeal judgment on Tuesday, which set aside a 2015 amendment to South Africa’s broadcasting migration policy, the communications minister, Faith Muthambi, has vowed to press on with the digital terrestrial television migration project.
Her spokesman, Mish Molakeng, said on Wednesday in an e-mailed statement to TechCentral: “The supreme court of appeal has not ordered the reversal of the broadcasting digital migration policy or interdicted the implementation of this key national project.”
This is after the court found in favour of an appeal by free-to-air broadcaster e.tv, which challenged the 2015 amendment.
The court found that Muthambi did not follow a process of consultation and that the amendment, which banned encryption in government-subsidised set-top boxes, was irrational and in breach of the principle of legality. The court set aside the amendment.
Muthambi’s decision to do away with encryption in the subsidised set-top boxes was a reversal of an earlier cabinet decision.
The appeals 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 thus acted ultra vires (beyond her powers), the court said.
The judgment is critical of Muthambi’s failure to consult with communications regulator Icasa, the Universal Service & Access Agency of South Africa, e.tv and other affected parties over the amendment, describing her behaviour as “egregious”.
E.tv was supported in its application by an industry grouping called Namec as well as Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS Coalition.
But Muthambi appears ready to press on regardless of the judgment by the supreme court of appeal.
Molakeng said in the ministry’s statement on Wednesday that digital terrestrial television “has the potential to radically transform the value chain of the broadcasting and telecommunications systems, thereby creating a new industry trajectory that will assist in addressing the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“Noting this judgment, on Friday, 3 June minister Muthambi will be in Kwaggafontein in Mpumalanga driving registration for set-top boxes for qualifying television-owning households,” Molakeng said.
Molakeng did not say whether Muthambi intends seeking leave to appeal against the supreme court judgment. — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media