OpenView HD, the new free-to-air satellite service launched by e.tv sister company Platco Digital on Tuesday, is offering the SABC’s three main television channels as part of its bouquet in spite of a simmering feud with the public broadcaster.
The SABC warned last month that OpenView would not be carrying its stations. In a harshly worded statement, the broadcaster tore into Platco, warning that the “pronouncement” that SABC television channels would form part of the Openview bouquet was “not true”, as it did “not have any agreement with the newly launched satellite television service”. It appealed to OpenView “not to confuse the public with false advertising” for its bouquet.
Platco kicked off commercial broadcasts on Tuesday. SABC 1, 2 and 3 have been allocated the first three slots in the OpenView HD bouquet, with e.tv following in the fourth slot.
Bronwyn Keene-Young, chief operating officer of e.tv parent Sabido Investments, tells TechCentral that she can’t divulge details of the dispute or on what basis OpenView is continuing to broadcast the SABC channels.
The commercial launch of OpenView HD comes at the same time that Sentech has launched a rival platform, called Freevision. The Freevision launch, at a Johannesburg hotel, was attended by top SABC executives, including CEO Lulama Mokhobo and acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
SABC spokesman Kaiser Kganyago did not answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.
Despite Platco’s dispute with the SABC, OpenView decided to place the public service channels first on its electronic programme guide. Keene-Young explains that this is in keeping with “best international practice”. It is carrying the three channels at no charge to the SABC.
The new platform offers 15 channels, including entertainment, culture and lifestyle, religious, children’s and educational programming.
In response to the SABC’s strongly worded statement, Platco issued a statement of its own in which it said it noted it “with interest” and said it was “surprised”.
“Platco will be carrying SABC 1, 2 and 3 from the launch date. The SABC as the public broadcaster has various obligations and any attempts by [it]to prevent Platco from carrying [its]channels would be unlawful,” Platco said.
Meanwhile, and in a development that may be related, a war of words erupted last month between MultiChoice and e.tv over digital terrestrial television after an investigation by TechCentral revealed that a commercial deal between the the pay-TV operator and the SABC prevents the latter from carrying its free-to-air channels over any platform that uses a control system.
E.tv described the move as “directly contradicting government policy” and said it gave MultiChoice subsidiary M-Net a “free ride” in digital terrestrial television. Conditional access allows broadcasters to switch off non-paying customers and is an essential element of a pay-TV service.
The Platco platform has a control system, so its carrying of the SABC’s channels may go against the terms of the public broadcaster’s contract with MultiChoice.
MultiChoice is fiercely opposed to including a control system in the set-top boxes that government plans to subsidise for poorer households, arguing that such a move would amount to unfair competition in that it would provide a subsidy to potential pay-TV operators. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media