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SA DIGITAL TV LEGAL THREATS: DoC RESPONDS

The Ministry of Communications has issued a statement in the wake of a combative press conference called by MultiChoice and the SABC.

he Ministry of Communications has issued a statement in which it responded to broadcasters aggrieved by its decision regarding conditional access in digital terrestrial television (DTT) set-top boxes (STBs).

The Ministry reiterates that broadcasters may decide whether they want to use encryption on their channels or implement a control system on their decoder-like STBs.

Minister of Communications, Yunus Carrim, also explained the rationale behind the decision at some length.

Particularly, he said that they considered dropping STB control altogether, but were confronted with a number of obstacles:

Changing the SANS 862 specification for STBs at the South African Bureau of Standards would take an average of 6 months;
Concerns that the SA market would be flooded by cheap, low quality DVB-T2 STB imports;
Concerns over possible legal challenges by free-to-air broadcasters that want to use STBControl, and manufacturers that have already invested in certification for their STB designs.

Legal threats

Carrim said several parties to the dispute threatened them with legal action, so they sought to tread a careful path.

E-tv previously interdicted former Minister Dina Pule when she appointed Sentech to manage STB control in South Africa. The High Court ruled in favour of E-tv.

MultiChoice, an opponent to E-tv in this dispute, has used the ruling to say that Carrim may not prescribe the use of STB control in South Africa.

However, Carrim said that lawyers whom they consulted said that “government has the right to make policy on STB control but it cannot prescribe the supplier, the operator of the control system, the type of control system to be used or how it should be managed.”

According to Carrim they have stayed within the bounds of the ruling and added that they have also not referred to conditional access or encryption as methods of implementing STB control.

“We are saying that broadcasters are free to decide whether they want to use control or not,” Carrim said. “There is no compulsion.”

Carrim said that given the above reasoning, they can’t see how they are going against the court order.

Source: BusinessTech – by MyBroadband