The Democratic Alliance has taken issue with government’s final revisions to the broadcasting digital migration policy, warning that the changes — published in the Government Gazette on Wednesday — will “stifle competition in the free-to-air market”.
Indeed, the changes “have the potential to put e.tv out of business while entrenching MultiChoice’s monopoly in the pay-television market and guaranteeing the SABC dominance in the free-to-air space”, says DA MP Marian Shinn in a statement.
In what can only be seen as a victory for MultiChoice and its industry allies, government has rejected any notion of an encryption system based on conditional access in its final amendment to South Africa’s broadcasting digital migration policy.
The amendments make it clear that government now does not support proposals advanced by e.tv and others that encryption should form a cornerstone feature of the set-top boxes that South Africans will need to watch terrestrial television after analogue broadcasts are terminated.
“These changes made by [communications minister Faith]Muthambi are not in the best interest of the industry and the South African viewer alike and raises suspicions about her reasons for going against her own cabinet and making these definitional changes at the last minute,” says Shinn.
“The only logical conclusion one can draw from this move by the minister is that she has an inappropriate relationship with MultiChoice and is attempting to solidify its monopoly in the pay-TV sector.”
Shinn says Muthambi must appear before a joint sitting of the communications and telecommunications and postal services portfolio committees to explain her actions and the impact these will have on South Africa’s television sector. She adds that Muthambi has not consulted the industry on the changes and has acted unilaterally.
“Failing minister Muthambi’s explanation to parliament, I will write to the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, requesting she act, as the authority on executive abuses of power, and investigate any violations of the Executive Ethics Act.
“If the DA finds Muthambi’s responses to parliament unsatisfactory, we will ask the public protector to investigate potential abuses of power. The DA will continue to hold the minister to account to ensure that she implements the broadcast digital migration policy following thorough consultation on matters that will affect broadcast content of millions of South Africans,” Shinn says. — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media