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BROADCASTER e.tv RILED BY COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER

Free-to-air broadcaster, e.tv has accused Communications Minister Dina Pule of misrepresenting the nature of the court ruling and implying that the free-to-air broadcasters were responsible for the delays in the migration to digital broadcasting from the aging analogue network.

The move to a digital platform is expected to result in much improved picture quality and also more television channels.

Last year, e.tv applied for an urgent interdict against the decision by Ms Pule to appoint Sentech to manage the encryption system of set top boxes, which will be used to receive the digital signal. Controlling the encryption system will among other things prevent the use of counterfeit set top boxes.

In December, the South Gauteng High Court ruled in e.tv’s favour, finding that Ms Pule had acted unlawfully in appointing Sentech. It further ruled that the free-to-air broadcasters have the right to decide on the set top boxes control system. Ms Pule has since filed an application to appeal the ruling.

On Tuesday Ms Pule said that she had met with the broadcasters and that the parties have “agreed to consider all options available in order to ensure a speedy implementation of the digital migration programme”.

The discussions centred on finding ways that would deliver set top boxes to the market and deliver much needed jobs this year, said Siyabulela Qoza, the ministry’s spokesman.

But on Wednesday, e.tv described as “untrue” that the meeting was to resolve the matter. It said the department had used these meetings “merely to restate” its original position, which the court ruled against.

“In addition, several solutions proposed by e.tv both during and after the litigation (including at this week’s meetings) which would allay many of the ministry’s concerns have not been taken into account by the ministry. Instead, the ministry’s statements imply that free-to-air broadcasters would be responsible for the delay in issuing the set top box tender,” it said.

The ministry said among the proposals discussed at the meeting, the parties were considering ways of ensuring that the set-top-box manufacturing tender, which was affected by the high court decision, was finalised without delay.

The solutions which it and the SABC will present to Ms Pule this month, will be “taken seriously so that the process can get back on track without further litigation and inevitable delays,” e.tv said.

The broadcaster said if the minister were to abide the court’s decision, broadcasters would be in a position to put the digital terrestrial television process back on track with immediate effect.

Mr Qoza said on Tuesday the implementation of digital migration could be delayed by up to three years if “stakeholders do not manage the matter with the necessary care and urgency”.

South Africa has until June 2015 to complete the migration to digital broadcasting and switch off the old analogue signal. Failure to do so, the International Telecommunications Union said, will not protect the analogue signal against interference.

Source: BDLive – Thabiso Mochiko