Government needs to put viewers first with digital TV

2014-03-20 21:00
Cape Town – South Africa’s TV industry, most notably the pay-TV platform, MultiChoice, is begging the government to “put the interest of the consumers first” when it comes to free digital television.
The government and the department of communications wants to force what is called a Conditional Access (CA) system into the set-top boxes (STBs) – basically a system of encryption – which all South Africans will have to buy when the switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) eventually happens.
Multiple inefficient ministers and regulatory delay has stalled the process with South Africa which is half a decade behind and has become the laughing stock of the continent, passed by countries like Rwanda and Zimbabwe which already successfully implemented DTT.
The government wants an encryption system for free-to-air public television STBs to spur job creation of these boxes and to protect the local manufacturing of these boxes. It means that TV sets and boxes from outside of South Africa, such as from global manufacturers won’t ever be importable since they won’t work as South Africa’s TV industry gets locked into a TV bubble it will never be able to escape from.
Encryption will also raise the cost for consumers due to the included hardware as well as licensing for proprietary encryption software which have to be paid for. South Africans will already have to fork out about R800 per box, will several consumers who will have to also buy an antenna. The government will not subsidise the boxes for consumers and will only give a subsidy to “the poorest of the poor” who will still have to hundreds of rands to get a STB.
Concern about where free digital TV is heading

MultiChoice which runs the DStv pay-TV platform and whose subscribers are already watching digital television, is highly concerned about the direction South Africa’s digital terrestrial television process is heading.
The majority of South African broadcasters, the SABC, M-Net, MultiChoice, all community TV stations and several manufacturers do not want a CA or encryption set-top boxes
“Over the past few days, the minister has accused MultiChoice, the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components (Namec) and South Africa’s community TV stations of misrepresenting the situation,” says MultiChoice in a statement.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” says MultiChoice. “We are all on record in support of the unencrypted set-top box option because of its multiple benefits to South African viewers”.
Put ordinary TV viewers ahead of other interests

“The minister has disregarded all our voices and attempted to deny anyone but himself the opportunity to speak for millions of South African television viewers”.
“Rather than engage with the merits of the debate, the minister has chosen to divert attention by questioning the position that MultiChoice occupies as a significant contributor to the broadcasting industry, and the South African economy in general,” says MultiChoice.
“If South African consumers don’t matter, who does” asks MultiChoice.
“It is clear that, like everywhere else in the world, an unencrypted option is not only the best low-cost option in terms of inntial outlay, but is cheaper in terms of ongoing costs to consumers”.
“Tagging those who choose to differ from him as ‘bullies’ does not contribute to a solution that is in the best interest of South African television consumers”.

Disclaimer: This is an article written by an independent South African TV critic and journalist covering the TV industry. The views of users published on Channel24 are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Channel24. Channel24 reserves the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
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