Cape Town – For the rest of Africa it’s the end of free, pirated viewing of the South Africa’s SABC channels and after the broadcasters’ signals emanating from South Africa to neighbouring African countries were shut down.

While South African viewers complain bitterly about the sad state of affairs and quality of public television and while growing numbers of them are pirate viewing overseas TV fare from the United States and Britain, the rest of Africa have in turn been turning to South Africa’s SABC1, SABC2, SABC3 and whose signals have been beaming much better entertainment programming into the rest of Africa.

Millions have been watching for free

Literally millions of African viewers have been watching South African broadcasters’ signals on free-to-air Chinese decoders such as Philibao, Wiztech, Fortec and South Africa’s Vivid decoders available from the South African parastatal signal distributor Sentech who’ve failed to properly encrypt the signals outside of South Africa’s borders.

Southern African viewers have been clamouring to watch the SABC and and their more frothy, faux glam entertainment, finding the mix of South African public television and its soap, news and reality television offering better than what they’re being offered by local public and state broadcasters on which they’ve been subjected to poor programming line-ups, low broadcasting and production standards and a lack of variety.

Complained about failure to keep SA’s signal within it’s borders

Local African broadcasters and pan-continental business units such as operating customised regional TV stations such as eBotswana have complained for a long time about Sentech’s failure to keep South Africa’s TV signals, unencrypted, out of the rest of Africa, arguing that it’s been having a debilitating effect on their viewership and ad revenue since viewers are watching the SABC and’s TV content they’re not supposed to.

Besides watching content not licensed to be shown in other regional territories, multinational companies and brands have opted to rather forsake TV stations in certain African countries to advertise on South African television, knowing their TV commercials and products will be seen by viewers across Africa through the TV signals of South African broadcasters in those countries anyway.

Signals were cut

Yesterday the signals were cut, with viewers across Africa from Zimbabwe to Botswana now forced to return to their own state and public broadcasters or sign up for more expensive pay-TV options such as DStv. Upset African viewers outside of South Africa are now complaining about no longer getting SABC1, SABC2, SABC3, and the “popular Christian programmes” they used to watch.

Last year Sentech was ordered by the South Gauteng High Court to encrypt South Africa’s free-to-air broadcasting signals by the end of May 2012 after it found Sentech “wrongful, negligent and in breach” for its failure to encrypt South Africa’s TV signals spilling over outside of South Africa.

Sentech which appealed the decision eventually decided to drop the case recently. eBotswana is however still pursuing its claim of damages against Sentech. eBotswana last year claimed R8 million in financial losses from Sentech’s failure to keep South African TV content in South Africa.

Source: Channel 24 – Thinus Ferreira