Sentech made no request to the department of communications to manage the control system for digital terrestrial television and is fine with a court decision that the system be managed by free-to-air broadcasters instead.
In May 2012, communications minister Dina Pule instructed Sentech to manage the control system, also known as the conditional access system, for managing the set-top boxes that consumers will need to receive digital terrestrial television when analogue broadcasts are switched off.
The move prompted a successful court challenge by free-to-air broadcaster e.tv, which took exception to Pule’s decision. In December, the high court in Johannesburg found that Pule had overstepped legal boundaries in determining that Sentech would manage the system.
Pule at first said she’d appeal the court’s decision, but later backed down. E.tv and the SABC have since submitted a joint proposal to the minister as to how they intend managing the control system, which will be used, among other things, to prevent the sale of government-subsidised set-top boxes across the country’s borders.
In an interview on Tuesday, Sentech CEO Setumo Mohapi said the court’s decision was “not really” a blow to the state-owned company, which is responsible for converting South Africa’s terrestrial television broadcasting network to digital.
“We certainly think we can get on with our lives with set-top box control,” he said. “There has to be some integration between whatever control system is chosen [by the free-to-air broadcasters], but whatever it is, we don’t really care.
“We are certainly not looking back,” he added. “It’s very clear [the control system] is the responsibility of the broadcasters, and Icasa has the same interpretation of the court judgment.”
Last month, the Sunday Times reported that Pule’s instruction that Sentech be the manager of the control system may have indirectly benefited her alleged boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa. According to the newspaper, the local partner of Europe’s Nagravision — Sentech’s chosen technology supplier of the control system — is a company run by a business partner of Mngqibisa’s.
Nagravision’s South African partner is AU Communications, which is headed by Mngqibisa’s business partner, Rudy Rashama, the Sunday Times reported. In turn, Pule accused the newspaper of being “engaged in a politically motivated smear campaign”. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media