The new SABC board will meet with MultiChoice to discuss its contract for two TV channels, as the deal for its SABC News channel is bleeding money, the City Press reported.
On 3 July 2013, the SABC signed a deal with MultiChoice that would see two 24-hour channels from the public broadcaster shown on DStv. The first of these was SABC News.
However, details emerged that part of the agreement was a penalty clause that would kick in if any of the SABC’s channels were to be encrypted or protected with a conditional access system on South Africa’s digital terrestrial TV platform.
This was significant at the time, as there was a battle between DStv, e.tv, and the Department of Communications over whether encryption and conditional access should be a requirement in the digital TV standard.
DStv said it would give e.tv an unfair, government-sponsored entry into the pay TV market and would cost consumers more money.
e.tv warned that without protections, South Africa’s subsidised set-top boxes could be resold overseas and not serve their purpose in allowing poor families to receive a digital TV signal.
The set-top boxes are needed to convert the digital TV signal into a broadcast existing TVs can show. The migration from analogue to digital TV will not impact satellite TV subscribers.
MultiChoice rubbishes allegations
In 2015, Media Monitoring Africa and Caxton Publishers approached the Competition Commission over the SABC-DStv deal.
They listed the following concerns:
- The SABC handed over control of its archives to MultiChoice. The archives are an invaluable public asset.
- The SABC effectively ceded its power to determine its policy on set-top box control to a commercial broadcasting entity.
- The deal set out terms for a future channel to be developed by the SABC, where MultiChoice may veto some programmes and select only the best ones to be broadcast exclusively on the MultiChoice platform.
MultiChoice rubbished the allegations, saying claims that it controls SABC content are false, and that the SABC dictates its own policy on encryption.
South Africa’s digital migration is still stuck in limbo, with little progress being made.
e.tv recently lost its battle against the non-encryption of set-top boxes in the country, when the Constitutional Court handed down its judgement on the matter.
Prior to this, Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo said she would support encryption in government-subsidised set-top boxes.