The broadcaster has said a move by the department of communications to appeal against a high court judgment will delay the country’s migration to digital terrestrial television.

E.tv on Monday described a decision by the department of communications to file an application for leave to appeal against a December high court judgment in the free-to-air terrestrial television broadcaster’s favour as “unfortunate”.

The broadcaster’s chief operating officer, Bronwyn Keene-Young, vowed to oppose the department’s appeal, which she warned would “further delay” the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television if granted. She said, too, that it was important for communications minister Dina Pule to follow the “judicial process”.

E.tv took Pule to court in May after the minister decided to appoint state-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech as the manager of the conditional access encryption system for digital terrestrial television. Until then, free-to-air broadcasters e.tv and the SABC had expected to manage the system.

The high court in Johannesburg found in favour of e.tv last month, with acting judge CG Pretorius ruling that Pule had overstepped legal boundaries in determining that Sentech would manage the system.

But on Monday, Pule’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, signalled that the department of communications had decided to seek leave to appeal. The move could result in months — if not years — of further delays in the already long-delayed migration to digital television.

This is bad news for wireless telecommunications operators — and by extension consumers — who want access to the spectrum to provide next-generation broadband services. The “digital dividend” spectrum that will be freed up through television migration is seen as crucial in improving access to broadband services outside SA metropolitan areas.

Pule said the decision to appeal against the high court’s judgment was taken after “considering the implications of the judgment on other broadcasters, particularly potential broadcasters, in line with the broadcasting digital migration policy”.

He said, too, that the department was “consulting with existing broadcasters and [regulator] Icasa on the role of each party in the implementation of the conditional access as per the court judgment”.

Source: NewsCentral Media – Duncan McLeod
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