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South African broadcaster loses STB encryption case

South African pay-TV operator e.TV has been unsuccessful in its court challenge to the state’s digital migration policy, where it argued that an amendment governing encrypted broadcasts effectively barred it from ever being able to encrypt its broadcasts, because the cost of doing it at a later stage was prohibitive. The High Court ruled that the government should not have to pay for the private, commercial aims of individual broadcasters.

The judgement – unless appealed – will now enable the government to implement the migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting, having already missed the June 17 deadline.

The case relates set-top boxes that the government plans to subsidise so that households without a digital platform such as a pay-TV decoder, can receive the digital signal.

An amendment to the policy by Communications Minister Faith Muthambi meant that the set-top boxes would not be able to unscramble encrypted broadcasts.

e.TV contended that its ability to encrypt future broadcasts was “essential to its business plans” if viewers were unable to access premium content.

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