The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has taken the decision not to support conditional access of set-top boxes, suggesting this is the most suitable option for it as a free-to-air broadcaster.
It said the decision was based on the fact the SABC has a mandate to make its services available to all South African citizens, in line with Universal Access. “Our services, both television and radio have always been on a free to air basis and going forward this will also be the case for DTT,” it said in a statement.
“It is in the SABC’s interest that any subscription DTT Set Top Box (STB) is capable of also receiving the SABC Free to Air (FTA) channels. In this case any DTT subscriber would not have to purchase an additional FTA STB in order to receive the SABC FTA DTT channels.
If the SABC channels were encrypted on DTT by means of a particular encryption system that is different to that of particular subscription service, this DTT STB would not have the ability to receive the SABC channels. In addition, having a set-top box with conditional access would put an extra burden on consumers, as this would drive up the cost of the set-top box.”
Research through benchmarking with other public broadcasters across the world, also strengthened the SABC’s decision, as they do not have conditional access on their services either, which is a standard practice. “It must be noted that conditional access is predominantly used by pay-Tv operators,” it added.
The SABC said it is ready to launch its DTT service, as the infrastructure, content and all other necessary resources are in place. The service will provide television channels SABC 1, 2, 3, as well as the 24-Hour News Channel, which is currently being broadcast on Dstv channel 404. The SABC will also launch an Entertainment channel on the DTT platform.
The SABC’s Group Chief Executive Officer Lulama Mokhobo said the decision was not taken lightly and all sides of the matter had to be carefully considered. “However, at the end of the day, whatever we do as a public service broadcaster, we must ensure that it is in the interest of the public and we believe that having no conditional access will mean that no South African can ever be denied their right to access of broadcasting services in this country.”