WHAT IS AT STAKE?

CityPress - - Business - – Dewald van Rensburg

South Africa’s even­tual mi­gra­tion to digital broad­cast­ing will re­quire tele­vi­sions to have set­top boxes to read the sig­nals.

The long de­lay of the digital mi­gra­tion process has led to more in­vest­ments in the stop­gap satel­lite-based in­fra­struc­ture pi­o­neered by Mul­tiChoice’s DStv of­fer­ing, and e.tv has launched its own OpenView HD satel­lite plat­form.

Up to last year, suc­ces­sive ver­sions of the Broad­cast­ing Digital Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy had called for the na­tion­wide roll-out of sub­sidised boxes that would have built-in en­cryp­tion tech­nol­ogy.

En­cryp­tion would yield a num­ber of com­mer­cial and pub­lic-in­ter­est ben­e­fits, said pro­po­nents such as SOS.

First, the boxes would be the in­fra­struc­ture that al­lows new pay TV chan­nels to ex­ist with­out hav­ing to dis­trib­ute their own sep­a­rate set-top boxes to mil­lions of homes, open­ing up a mar­ket that has been dom­i­nated by Mul­tiChoice.

The en­cryp­tion would also help im­prove the free-to-air land­scape, said Phamodi. The abil­ity to se­cure broad­casts against piracy and spillage into neigh­bour­ing coun­tries is cur­rently some­thing only Mul­tiChoice can do.

With­out this, broad­cast­ers could not even get a seat at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble with pre­mium con­tent providers, said Phamodi.

Putting en­cryp­tion into the boxes shores up the case for lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing, which is Namec’s spe­cific in­ter­est in the is­sue. With­out en­cryp­tion, generic boxes could sim­ply be im­ported, said Nch­a­be­leng.

Be­cause poor house­holds were still more likely to have ac­cess to a tele­vi­sion than a com­puter, an en­cryp­tion-ready net­work of boxes could also be a new and se­cure av­enue for gov­ern­ment e-ser­vices, he said.

Lewis’ judg­ment echoes much of this anal­y­sis, say­ing that “the ef­fect of the amend­ment is that high-qual­ity tele­vi­sion will not be avail­able to the poor­est in our so­ci­ety”.

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