Minister welcomes court ruling on set top boxes

Walvis Bay - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has welcomed the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling to dismiss an application by etv over set-top box (STB) encryption.

On Thursday, the North Gauteng High Court dismissed etv’s case to encrypt STBs, among other things, with costs.

“The ruling by the North Gauteng High Court will now allow the DTT [digital terrestrial television] process to progress and be concluded as soon as possible so that the benefits can be realised and enjoyed by all South Africans,” she said.

Earlier this year, Cabinet approved the final amendments to the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy which paved the way for the implementation of digital migration. Cabinet further approved that government should provide free set-top-boxes to the five million households who cannot afford to buy the STBs.

The STBs will convert analogue broadcasting signals into digital ones.

"The court has affirmed the amendment to the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy that was gazetted on March 18, 2015, was in the best interest of the South African television viewers,” said the Minister.

The channel had questioned the Minister’s decision to amend the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy, saying it was not in the best interest of free-to-air broadcasters.

It wanted an amendment to the provision that says the control system will not be mandatory.

The etv channel further wanted the court to set aside a provision in the policy that says government-subsidised STBs will not have the capability to encrypt broadcast signals.

Minister Muthambi reiterated that the amended policy will ensure South Africans switch from the analogue to digital broadcasting system sooner.

The Minister is in Walvis Bay, Namibia, where she is currently holding bilateral agreements on radio frequency spectrum interference.

In an effort to obey the conditions set out by the ITU for nations that fail to meet the migration deadline of not interfering with the digital transmission of their neighbouring countries, Minister Muthambi has been visiting neighbouring countries and has signed agreements of cooperation with countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

The purpose of these agreements is to harmonise the utilisation of Radio Frequency Spectrum as the countries undergo the digital migration to ensure that there will be no interference.-