E.tv to challenge TV policy in court - TechCentral

E.tv to challenge TV policy in court

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South Africa’s digital migration project could be set for further delays after e.tv revealed on Tuesday that it has asked the high court to review “aspects” of government’s final broadcasting digital migration policy released last month by communications minister Faith Muthambi.

E.tv is strongly in favour of the use of an encryption system in the set-top boxes, arguing that such a system is needed to prevent the “ghettoisation” of free-to-air television in South Africa. It has argued previously that encryption is necessary to ensure free-to-air broadcasters can get access to the latest and best international content.

The broadcaster says at issue is a provision of government’s final policy which states that subsidised set-top boxes will not have the capability to encrypt broadcast signals. This is a reversal of an earlier cabinet decision. E.tv is also concerned about the provision in the policy that states that a set-top box control system will be non-mandatory. It wants the first provision set aside and the second provision amended.

“E.tv argues in its papers that the effect of the previous judgment of 2012, where e.tv successfully challenged then minister of communications Dina Pule’s appointment of Sentech to operate the set-top box control system, is that it is unlawful for the minister to make decisions on certain key critical technical issues that affect free-to-air broadcasters,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

“The minister and cabinet have repeatedly stated that they wished to respect the right of individual broadcasters to decide for themselves whether to encrypt their signals. However, the effect of the policy is precisely the opposite. What e.tv seeks to ensure is that the broadcasting digital migration policy does not prevent us making our own decision regarding encryption of our broadcast signal,” said e.tv chief operating officer Mark Rosin.

“E.tv considers it essential that it be able to encrypt its broadcast signal primarily because this would prevent non-compliant set-top boxes from receiving digital broadcast signals, thereby ensuring a uniform and reliable viewer experience. Without a fully conformant platform, broadcasters such as e.tv would in the future likely be unable to provide broadcasts in high definition,” Rosin said.

“In one provision, the minister purports to allow broadcasters the right to make their own decisions on the question of encryption. But in another adjacent provision, the minister renders this right entirely nugatory and meaningless by stating that the 5m government-subsidised set-top boxes shall not have the capability to encrypt.”

E.tv has asked that the matter be dealt with urgently by the courts given the need for digital migration to begin.  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media

31 Comments

  1. Greg Mahlknecht on

    > It has argued that encryption is necessary to ensure free-to-air broadcasters can get access to the latest and best international content.

    Multichoce has argued the exact opposite (saying that content protection is needed, not content encryption) – except that Multichoice have given existing examples in UK to back up their argument, and eTV haven’t backed up their argument.

    Everyone just needs to STFU and let this happen. If they’d not fought in the first place, I bet we’d have someone like OpenView already deploying a DTT version of their platform which eTV could have used.

  2. Multichoice uses the BBC as an example. But the BBC is a public broadcaster, and doesn’t rely on ads to fund them (hence TV licences). And it generates its own content. However, since SA is so behind at this stage, almost any decision will do, as long as they stick to it.

  3. > E.tv considers it essential that it be able to encrypt its broadcast signal primarily because this would prevent non-compliant set-top boxes from receiving digital broadcast signals, thereby ensuring a uniform and reliable viewer experience

    Codswallop!

    E.tv doesn’t give a damn about the “viewer experience”. Any “non-compliant” STBs, whether locally manufactured or imported will be seized and represent a significant loss to any Bad Boys out there.

  4. > Without a fully conformant platform, broadcasters such as e.tv would in the future likely be unable to provide broadcasts in high definition,” Rosin said.

    More nonsense. Whether encryption is used or not, HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is mandatory on the HDMI interfaces on the DTT and DTH STBs, as well as being included in IDTVs. It’s in all three standards.

    Next excuse, e.tv? Or are you going to admit your real agenda?

  5. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Really? openviewhd (dot) coza is an etv company? I did not know that. That makes it even worse! They have their own CA solution and still want a free ride on the government’s dime? Sheesh. Throw a terrestrial tuner in that OpenView HD box, get ahead of the curve, and own this market!

  6. The BBC does use a form of encryption on their free to air channel’s… Its called Huffman coding and was required by movie studios before they would provide HD and premiere content to the BBC.
    Most countries are now starting to use full CA systems including encryption on their FTA channel’s for the same reasons…..Tanzania,Mauritius,Uganda,Namibia Nigeria have now all implemented CA. Sweden,Poland,Romania,Etcetc are all using CA on FTA….A CA system has many benefits for SA including mass messaging which for e.g. could be used in the current xenophobic attacks by sending messages to specific constituencies in all 11 official languages so that people can clearly understand the issues….also.. Without CA we are all bound to Multi choices monopoly.. Yes I know about IPtv, VOD,etc…but Multi choice is getting away with unacceptable competition rules..

  7. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Where exactly is it in the amended policy where any broadcaster is prevented from funding and implementing a CA system at their own cost?

    BDM is not about creating competition for Multichoice nor is it about ensuring that ETV can broadcast premium content… it is in fact; about the freeing up of spectrum.

    >> Tanzania,Mauritius,Uganda,Namibia Nigeria have now all implemented CA.

    …and no one in SA is being prevented from implementing CA – Platco, Multichoice, StaSat, potential new players, etc. as well as anyone who has a real understanding of what BDM is about will confirm this to you.

    This was a predictable move from ETV… and now rather than fight the battle where it should be fought they’d rather tackle a losing battle in court which will not only do nothing to change the policy but will lead to this unnecessary subsidy being scrapped altogether since everything that’s required from the government for BDM is already in-place.

    As has been and will continue to always be the case… Multichoice continues to be the BIG WINNER with any delays and in the end the outcome will not favor ETV because its not government’s mandate to fund private companies’ commercial interests.

  8. You obviously don’t understand the policy in the sense that it goes against many decisions that were previously debated and confirmed by both parliament and the high courts I.e. etv versus minister Pule – court rules FTA broadcasters must choose CA vendor and appoint CA operator…, etv will use this as well in their case.
    Prevoius and current policy requirements are for government to protect subsidised Stbs by the ability to switch onoff- Requires CA system…. Messaging as per policy requires CA system …not universal messaging as the new minister is proposing…SABS standard requires STB control ( CA) mandatory on all subsidised stbs and any STB which requires SABS approval- Standard will have to be changed to meet policy requirements…a 12 to 18 month process ( ask any SABS technical panel member… It is tedious)…So I believe the tender which USAASA has or has not awarded will be going to court from disgruntled STB madnufacturers…
    So in your opinion it seems like the poor people in SA must just do with inferior programming just to satisfy Multichoice…
    So I would suggest that until you understand the FULL role and advantages of a CA system for SA you will not understand the implications of the new policy on the poor of SA..

  9. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>So in your opinion it seems like the poor people in SA must just do with inferior programming just to satisfy Multichoice…

    Another spokesperson for the poor who believes that the wool can be easily pulled over the eyes of the masses to persuade our government to fund those who want play in the pay-TV space (or to broadcast FTA premium content… hahaha).

    >>So I would suggest that until you understand the FULL role and advantages of a CA system for SA you will not understand the implications of the new policy on the poor of SA..

    Spoken like another clueless opposition shadow minister.

    I would put it to you; that I know far more about the role and advantages of a CA system than you would even begin to comprehend…

    …before making an assumption about a person, you would be well advised to do your research on that person.

  10. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    BTW – In all your ramblings of wisdom about the amended policy, you still haven’t pointed out exactly where it is that broadcasters are prevented from paying for and implementing a CA system…???

    …but that’s hardly surprising given that you obviously;

    >>understand the implications of the new policy on the poor of SA.

    …but probably more truthfully and more to the point; the implications to those like yourself who were convinced of securing a free ride at the tax payer’s expense LMAO!

  11. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Will the “new standard” need a new SABS approval? It appears that it’s just vanilla DVB-T2, which I assume all the paperwork and tickboxes are complete on, because devices have been selling with those tuners for a while. I have at least one TV with a DVB-T2 tuner in which should work once the proposed DTT implementation comes online in my area.

    The “off switch” just rides on top of the DVB-T2 standard in one of the data channels, it shouldn’t need to touch the underlying spec, it’s a software add-on which is a firmware tweak.

  12. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >Next excuse, etv? Or are you going to admit your real agenda?

    What I don’t get (that I learned today), is that eTV’s parent company stands to gain a hell of a lot from this because they could be VERY fast movers with their OpenView platform. They have a CA system all ready to go, they just need to pop DTT tuners in their existing satellite boxes – or they could put both in. They have the back-end, infrastructure and entire deployment network operating right now as we speak!

    Their protests might of course just be a bluff to delay the process until they have stock of their new DTT boxes manufactured, then on DTT switch over day they announce their new OpenViewDTT platform and hey wow – we happen to have a warehouse with 3 million cheap CA decoders ready to roll!

    All these guys are full of kak – I wouldn’t trust eTV any more than Multichoice.

  13. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>Their protests might of course just be a bluff to delay the process until they have stock of their new DTT boxes manufactured, then on DTT switch over day they announce their new OpenViewDTT platform and hey wow – we happen to have a warehouse with 3 million cheap CA decoders ready to roll!

    The amended policy has been gazetted and the only delay would be with the waste of tax payer money subsidy plan.

    Nothing is stopping a Multichoice from going to market with DTT STBs in the same way they went to market with DTH and were able gain the huge market advantage they got in the absence of regulatory policy up until they were eventually awarded a license together with 6 other applicants amongst which was ODM.

    So once again the likes of ETV are unable to learn… and history repeats itself with once again Multichoice being able to put their money into the business which is what their Mission Statement is about and ETV opting instead to waste money making lawyers rich.

    It really isn’t a train smash for the masses though, because I’m sure ETV will be missed as much as that other property of theirs “3rd Degree” which ironically ended up burning itself out of existence – Eish! wasn’t aware that 3rd degree burns could be that severe 🙂

  14. I thought that Huffman coding, otherwise called entropy coding or variable length coding is a compression technique. This is similar to the Morse code. Is it really a form of encryption? Since the encryption module is an additional hardware to the STB that sits between the demodulator and multiplexer, it naturally means the price of the STB is going to increase with this additional hardware. Government should not be expected to pay for this. Let us not be Buffel-headed by This.

  15. “Gettoization of STBS “. ICASA is supposed to do type approval of electronic equipment. This is to ensure thst it meets the requisite technical specificstions. Is the STB excluded in this regard? What would be the reason. I do realise the Authority has been missing in action on STBS. This is concerning. I wonder why that is the case.

  16. “Non compliant STBS receiving digital signals” if they actually receive digital signals and decode them for viewing, in what way are they non compliant? Where is the harm in that respect?. If they meet the specified technical specs, ICASA or SABS type approved)and are competitively affordable, it will mean that those who do not meet the STBs subsidy scheme would benefit immensely in these economic hard times.

  17. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Check the Freeview Wikipedia article under “Copy Protection” – that sums it up nicely. Basically, the SD channels have zero encryption/restrictions, and the HD channels have the EPG encrypted, it seems that’s what needed to enforce the selective HDCP which provides the copy protection required. There is no CA – contrary to what some people keep saying, content makers don’t require CA to distribute their premium content, they require copy protection. And then, only on HD channels.

    I do believe that our local spec has blanket HDCP on all HD content, so we have learned from FreeView there, and don’t need a hack like they had to try and retrofit.

  18. Andrew Fraser on

    Mark, that is patently nonsense. Encryption has absolutely nothing to do with HD broadcasts.

  19. Andrew Fraser on

    True. The locally produced devices will require “stay alive signal” inorder to operate. No CA required.

  20. Greg Mahlknecht on

    The stay alive signal is another issue – it’s a misguided and misinformed attempt to protect the local STB manufacturing sector – Faith’s little tweet war with Duncan a while back proved she really has no idea what the consequences of her decisions are – which is why we should just go with as vanilla an implementation as possible and let the market take care of the rest. Government has finished the building of the DTT broadcast network. 2 thumbs up to that, now they must step away.

  21. Plug it in and switch it on, Greg. The DTT signal is currently available in its entire coverage area, and has been for 3 years in some places.
    All that’s missing is the “official switch on date” from some minister or another to be declared.

  22. No, STBs are not excluded. No, ICASA has not been “missing in action” in the standards setting process.
    I’d imagine that they are keeping quiet because they’ve already done all that they have to. The delay lies entirely with Government – and these silly arguments about CA.

  23. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Will do – I last checked a few weeks ago and there was nothing. It was on during a testing period a year or two ago, but they definitely switched it off. If I scan channels it does get a number of frequency locks, but no EPG info or signals. So there is something out there.

  24. The transmitters have all been tested. The EPG and stuff may not be live until “Switch On”.
    Where do you live, Greg? In Cape Town, for example, DTT signals interfere with some other channels that will have to migrate, so may not be broadcasting right now.

  25. Greg Mahlknecht on

    I’m in Kloof, KZN – our local antenna was one of the ones included in the first wave of testing, but I’ll fire up the old Dreambox tonight – it’s very good at picking up anything that’s out there.

  26. Jeremy Lansman on

    I looked into that. So far as I can see, it has nothing in particular to do with Huffman coding, but everything to do with recording the shows. Not with watching the shows real time.

  27. Yes, Huffman coding is a compression technique. It depends on having a table of the most commonly occurring symbols and their corresponding codes. What the BBC did was decline to share the table encoding the EPG freely with STB manufacturers who didn’t implement copy protection.

    This was challenged by users of open source software / hardware STBs. I’m not sure what happened in the end.

    Either way, the HD broadcasts are NOT encrypted. Copy protection is implemented. Not the same thing, despite what some posters have been telling us over and over again …