Digital TV: Muthambi vows to press on - TechCentral

Digital TV: Muthambi vows to press on

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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

16 Comments

  1. Chicky Lamba on

    Article is misleading . The previous policy indicated that STB , should have an STB control mechanism , which the DOC have put into all subsidised STB. It didn’t say all STB should have encryption . Tech central stop misleading the public. I suggest you or your team read the judgement before writing articles. 🙂

  2. Chicky Lamba on

    Namec which way are you swaying Encryption or Not ? Again Techcentral poor source on information. There are 2 groups calling themselves NAMEC at the case which are referred to as Faction 1 and 2 . WHO is checking the validity of Data in these articles ?

  3. It is her job to “press on”! The court told her to change the encryption strategy, not stop the whole project.

  4. Faith Muthambi has betrayed the interests of the people of South Africa and gone against the decision of her own party in refusing to implement signal encryption. She has supported the business interests of MultiChoice in its campaign to retain market dominance in the television broadcasting sector, along with the interests of various corrupt individuals who have been roped into the MultiChoice camp. By doing so she has subverted the ability of free-to-air television to survive and to serve the interests of the people by providing high-value international content. This is part of the strategy of the Zuma government to secure the SABC as its propaganda arm and partner with Afrikaner capital to serve the interests of the few over those of the majority.

  5. Andrew Fraser on

    Can you explain how lack of encryption will “subvert” the ability of FTA television to survive? This seems like a bit of a logical leap. If anything, encryption will allow TV players to enter the Pay-TV market, because barriers to entry are lowered, but it won’t help FTA stations in any way that I can see.

    There are a lot of red herrings in the pro-encryption argument. Does not including encryption benefit Multichoice? Yes it does, but should it be government’s responsibility to fund the pay-TV aspirations of other private companies? And the response to this should be no.

    I’m going to stop there, because after your initial point, you start with conspiracy theory rambling.

  6. Andrew Fraser on

    Grootes is just parroting the same nonsense that e.TV and the SOS coalition have been saying. In what way will encryption give these FTA broadcasters access to more content than they already have access to? Rights owners are not concerned about encryption per se, but rather that they will get paid for the licences they hold. Digital FTA broadcasts are already constrained by the footprint of transmitters, and copy protection already exists in the HDMI output of the decoder. Those two protections are more than sufficient protections for the rights holders.

    The reason that FTA broadcasters don’t have this high value content is that they cannot afford it. The licences are sold based on audience size, and the FTA broadcasters’ audiences are simply too big, making the content unaffordable. That won’t change with encryption.

    The only two reasons for mandatory encryption in the STB, are the following:
    1. To enable new Pay-TV services to be launched
    2. To protect the inefficient local production of STBs (benefiting connected tenderpreneurs)

    Neither of these should be funded by the taxpayer.

    Edit: Faith Muthambi is, of course, the worst kind of inept, nepotist politician imaginable. The fact that I think that she was right in this case doesn’t change that fact.

  7. Andrew Fraser on

    Grootes usually gets things right, but in this case he has been led down the garden path.

  8. Greg Mahlknecht on

    He’s dead wrong, though – content creators require copy prevention, not encryption (easy to prove, just google for a bit and you’ll find Hollywood stuff on FTA channels). The problem is there’s usually not enough money in FTA channels to afford the latest content. Broadcast TV is slowly declining and the money is shifting to online. These dinosaurs are just fighting over the scraps of a dying industry.

    If you’ve ever tried to copy stuff from DSTV with a DVD recorder you’ll know what I mean – many years ago, DSTV flipped the switch on their copy protection when it became a requirement, and the analogue ports are Macrovision protected now (HDMI outputs are already HDCP).

    This is how it’s implemented in UK with FreeView.

  9. Andrew Fraser on

    Exactly. This is what many commentators have got wrong, plus, e.TV and others have been unethically pushing this misconception as fact.

    The DA (Shinn) was parroting this exact misconception yesterday,

  10. From the information that is available to me, my understanding is that Hollywood studios do actually require signal encryption, particularly when licensing HD content. Since I don’t deal with them myself I don’t have confirmation of this, but this is what I have been told by someone who has had substantial dealings with them. This would support etv’s assertion on this point.

    Whether or not FTA broadcasters such as etv have the money available to pay for such content, once again I can’t say since I am not privy to their financial dealings – but then I presume that you too are not really in a position to know what the actual situation is.

    WRT the efficacy of copy protection on HDMI outputs, the problem is that not all STBs on the market would necessarily have such protection built in, particularly if conditional access is not present in the box, which means that any box on the market is capable of receiving the signal, not just those that have the authorised decryption software. Not to mention USB dongles for PCs that pick up FTA signals. In other words content providers can rightly fear that when their content is broadcast it will very soon end up on the internet, which weakens their ability to sell it on to other broadcasters.

    Whether or not etv intends launching pay-TV services in the future I can’t say. They claim that they have no such intention, but who knows, maybe they do or maybe some future licensee will want to do so. So this is a moot point at this time and the encryption battle is being fought on the basis of FTA broadcasters having access to premium content, in which case the arguments above regarding the potential for piracy are pertinent.

  11. Encryption is a form of copy protection since it allows content to be downloaded only to STBs with authorised decryption software. There are ‘grey’ boxes on the market that do not have HDMI copy protection built in and USB signal receiver dongles that attach to PCs that can also pick up unencrypted signals. I don’t know what FTA broadcasters can or can’t afford, but I think it’s fair to allow them the leeway to acquire such content if they can, in which case they would need a robust copyright protection which encryption affords.

    Money may be shifting online but the broadcast industry is still very strong, and is much more affordable to the masses who can’t afford broadband internet. Yes the situation is changing and broadband penetration will improve, but this is also a slow process. TV will be around for quite a while yet.

  12. Greg Mahlknecht on

    There are 2 very distinct part to this. The signal encryption is from the broadcaster to the STB. The copy protection is from the STB to the TV. It’s that bit from the STB to the TV that the content creators are worried about, because if that’s unencrypted, then it’s dead easy for anyone with even basic knowledge to pirate the content. The whole thing is basically from the VHS/Audio Cassette days where it was so easy to pirate.

    I know the boxes you speak of – Dreambox are the most popular, and I’ve fiddled with them. The thing is, if someone has gone to the trouble of getting one, then they’ll have knowledge of what they’re doing, and it’s usually a pretty small barrier to entry to take it 1 step further and use card-sharing or just plain haxx to get past the encryption. Last I heard they were talking about using Nagravision on the STB’s, which has been thoroughly cracked. At one point they were justifying using the STB encryption so they could use the DTT network for private/secret government broadcasts. I’m all in on that, because it’d be very interesting to eavesdrop on those 🙂

  13. Greg Mahlknecht on

    > the problem is that not all STBs on the market would necessarily have such protection built in

    This isn’t true – the boxes would still have to be ICASA approved to be able to be sold in South Africa. ICASA wouldn’t give approval without content protection being built in.

    One could quite easily create a DVD recorder that stripped HDCP and ignored copy protection as well (you get HDMI dongles that do the same thing, another easy way of circumventing protection), which would also break the chain, but you can’t get one of those because they wouldn’t get approved for sale here.

    > From the information that is available to me

    Well, now you have more information 🙂

  14. You are right about the two stages to protection; but the decryption software in the box has to be authorised, so ‘grey’ boxes wouldn’t have it – i.e. it’s a way of ensuring that boxes also have second-stage protection in as well.

    It may well be that software such as Nagravision has been cracked, but there may be other ways of ensuring that the software is authorised. You might argue that hackers will always find a way of getting around copy protection, therefore it is fundamentally unworkable and so unnecessary; but I suppose it’s a case of minimizing risk while recognising that theft is always a possibility. That’s why banks transport cash around in armoured vehicles rather than ordinary vans – it may still get stolen but the risk is reduced.

  15. Andrew Fraser on

    HDMI as a standard includes HDCP copy protection. USB dongles that handle the HD signal would also follow the same HDCP chain. This is a non-issue.

    Encryption is a method of stopping non-approved receivers from accepting the signal, that is all. It has no impact on copy protection.

    The UK Freeview DTT platform is unencrypted and they seem to have access to this mythical HD “high value” content, So I’m fairly sure that someone is telling porkies. Feel free to check out their TV guide. freeview(dot)co(dot)uk/tv-guide

    The piracy argument is a distraction.

  16. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Getting back to the basic point – we need copy prevention to get the premium content, not the encryption. But it’s all moot because FTA channels can’t afford the premium content anyway,

    Encryption and access control is needed for premium programs, but for another reason that you’re talking about – the broadcasters need to charge for this content, so need the encryption/access control to protect their media assets. But the companies charging for that content should be subsidizing the STB’s, not the taxpayer. OpenView HD already has an open access control system working with satellite broadcasting, they just need to drop a DTT tuner in there and make their solution work with DTT. This is a good business opportunity. Ironically OpenView is owned by eTV’s parent company, so eTV pushing for the government to do the access control/encryption is stabbing their sister company OpenView in the back.