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