The free-to-air broadcasters has accused the communications ministry of “misrepresenting the nature” of a recent high court ruling against communications minister Dina Pule. has lashed out at the ministry of communications over media statements it issued on Monday regarding the free-to-air broadcaster’s recent high court victory, saying they “misrepresent the nature of the ruling and imply that free-to-air broadcasters are responsible for delays” in migrating from analogue to digital terrestrial television.

In December, the high court in Johannesburg found that communications minister Dina Pule’s decision to hand over the management of the control system for the set-top boxes for digital terrestrial television to Sentech was “unlawful”. Previously, and the SABC were responsible for procuring and managing the system, which deals with the encryption of digital signals.

The court ruled that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) was the only entity that may regulate set-top box control and that, subject to its regulatory powers,, the SABC and other free-to-air broadcasters were to be responsible for the control system for free-to-air television.

On Monday, the department of communications said it would appeal against the high court judgment. This has the potential of delaying the migration to digital television by months or even years as set-top box manufacturers may not be able to begin building the estimated 5m boxes that will subsidised into poorer households by the government.

“If the minister were to abide by the decision of the high court, the free-to-air broadcasters would be in a position to put the digital terrestrial television process back on track with immediate effect,” says in a statement on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the ministry has proceeded to issue media statements which misrepresent the nature of the ruling and which imply that free-to-air broadcasters are responsible for the delays in digital terrestrial television.”

In a statement on Monday, Pule’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, said that the decision to seek leave to appeal was taken after “considering the implications of the judgment on other broadcasters, particularly potential broadcasters, in line with the broadcasting digital migration policy”.

Qoza said the department was consulting with existing broadcasters and Icasa on the role of each party in the implementation of the control system “as per the court judgment”.

But in its statement on Wednesday, attacks the ministry’s statement.

“Much has been made of meetings arranged by the ministry with broadcasters to ‘resolve’ the issue,” says. “This is untrue as the ministry has used these meetings merely to restate its original position, which the court ruled against. In addition, several solutions proposed by 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 industry. Instead, the ministry’s statements imply that free-to-air broadcasters would be responsible for the delay in issuing the set top box tender.” says in addition that it hopes solutions, which both it and the SABC will present to Pule’s ministry, will “be taken seriously so that the process can get back on track without further litigation and inevitable delays”.
Source: TechCentral – Duncan McLeod.