The ruling African National Congress (ANC) plans to hold an urgent meeting with communications minister Faith Muthambi over set-top box encryption.
Set-top boxes (STBs) are devices that decode digital signals for analogue television sets, a process that further opens up broadcast frequencies for faster mobile broadband services.
Up to five million subsidised boxes are planned to be given to poorer households, but debate has raged over whether to encrypt these devices or not.
Free-to-air broadcaster e.tv and political party the Democratic Alliance (DA) have called for encryption to prevent non-compliant STBs from receiving digital broadcast signals as well as to protect high-quality content.
On the other hand, public broadcaster the SABC and pay-tv provider MultiChoice have said that encryption will cost the state more in rolling out subsidised boxes.
Muthambi has sided with the SABC and MultiChoice on encryption, a move that has prompted the ANC’s communications sub-committee chair Jackson Mthembu to call for a meeting with the minister of communications. Mthembu made the call at the ANC’s national general council meeting on the weekend.
According to a report in the Business Day newspaper, Muthambi went against her party on encryption.
“The meeting is urgent,” Mthembu told Fin24 by phone on Monday.
“Yes, we are going to meet with her so that we get exactly what the intentions are and whether we’ll be able to achieve what we wanted to achieve as the ANC and for the people of South Africa,” Mthembu said.
South Africa has already missed a June 2015 deadline from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to switch over to digital broadcasts.
The process, though, finally kicked off in the Northern Cape earlier this month with households around the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project receiving subsidised set-top boxes.
Meanwhile, e.tv also lost a bid to reverse Muthambi’s decision on encryption in the Gauteng High Court earlier this year.
But according to local technology publication TechCentral, e.tv has filed papers for leave to appeal the judgment.