According to the report, in a confidential deal with MultiChoice, the SABC has agreed that it will not carry any of its free-to-air channels over a terrestrial platform that includes conditional access systems.
Conditional access is the use of encryption technology in digital broadcasting – a system which E-tv wants government to include in the set-top boxes it will subsidise in the digital terrestrial TV (DTT) migration.
E-tv COO, Bronwyn Keene-Young, has hit out at the deal, reportedly saying that the deal would give M-Net “the right to free-ride on the SABC channels” on its own DTT set-top boxes.
According to the COO, without encryption, “the M-Net digital set-top box will simply be able to pick up the signals of the free-to-air broadcasters”, meaning M-Net could grow its terrestrial service “off the back of the SABC and E-tv without any compensation,” the Sunday Times quoted her as saying.
Further, the E-tv executive accused MultiChoice of contradicting goverment policy through the agreement.
MultiChoice South Africa Group CEO, Imtiaz Patel defended the agreement, accusing E-tv of wanting goverment and taxpayers to subsidise its pay-tv amibitions, as conditional access is an essential element of pay-TV offerings.
“We have no problem with competition and have always welcomed it,” Patel reportedly said.
“We only have a problem with E-tv and others potentially choosing to get a free ride from government.”
Patel argued that E-tv’s reasons for wanting to include conditional access were weak and that the call for its inclusion was to get goverment to cover the cost of the components needed to implement it.
Keene-Young refuted Patel’s claims saying his concerns are misplaced.
According to the report, E-tv has said repeatedly that its formal undertaking is that “no entity in the Sabido Group will offer pay TV on the digital terrestrial free-to-air platform”.