Minister notes STB encryption court ruling

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pretoria - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has noted the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling on the free-to-air television broadcaster, eTV’s Set Top Boxes (STBs) encryption court battle.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, on Tuesday, found that the amendment to the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy in 2015 by Minister Muthambi did not follow a process of consultation and was irrational and in breach of the principle of legality.

In a statement, following the court ruling, the department said: “The Minister will study the judgment and decide how to proceed”.

Last year, the North Gauteng High Court dismissed the free-to-air television broadcaster’s case to encrypt STBs with costs.

This comes after the free to air television channel had questioned the rationality of the Minister’s decision to amend the policy, saying it’s not in the best interest of free-to-air broadcasters.

When eTV took the legal route to challenge the legality of the Minister’s decision to amend the policy, other stakeholders who were embracing digital migration accused the television channel of pursuing its own business interests. However, eTV had earlier indicated the amendment to the policy will result in them forking out R3 billion to distribute its own STBs.

The public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), was also in support of Minister Muthambi that encryption will cost an initial R580 million and R500 million annually after that.

By filing an application for leave to appeal a judgment by the high court, the free-to-air broadcaster wanted the Supreme Court to set aside a provision in the policy that says government subsidised STBs will not have the capability to encrypt broadcast signals. Again, it also wanted an amendment to the provision that says the control system will not be mandatory.

Broadcasting Digital Migration Amendment Policy

The Broadcasting Digital Migration Amendment Policy was approved by Cabinet last year with the inclusion of the control system in the STB, which was clearly defined when the policy was published. The policy seeks to clarify the use of a control system in STBs that will enable households to switch from analogue to digital broadcast signals.

The issue of whether to include the control system in the STBs has been a source of disagreement amongst free-to air broadcasters for some time now, which impacted negatively on the ability of the country to implement the broadcasting digital television. -

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