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South Africa “reverses” STB policy

South Africa is seemingly changing its mind on the use of all-encrypted set-top boxes for its adoption of digital TV.  The country’s Department of Communications (DoC) has ruled that consumers can use non-encrypted converter boxes, although denies that it is a reversal of previously agreed decisions.

The all-encryption policy has been in place for some years, and South Africa’s transmission company Sentech has suffered considerable criticism since 2011, and not helped by most neighbouring nations having access to SABC’s signals. Sentech had been using Vivid encryption, but the technology is widely misused in neighbouring Zimbabwe, for example.

More recently Kudelski won the competition to upgrade the nation’s digital terrestrial transmissions with its Nagra encryption. A ruling covering STBs, and in place for at least two years, requires that boxes must include encryption although its use was optional. A June 2013 letter from Nagra France  to the various broadcasting stakeholders said the company would waive its individual viewer STB licence fees provided that each STB manufacturer paid its ‘Certification Fee’, of US$85,000.

This week a statement from the Ministry said: “The Department of Communications wishes to place on record that the ANC National General Council never discussed a possible reversal of the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy as reported in the Business Day and Business Report on Monday, 12 October 2015,” read the DOC statement. “The matter of encryption was also not discussed in the commission and plenary sessions of the National General Council when the report of the commission was adopted.”

“The Minister, the Deputy Minister, the DG of the Department of Communications and the DG of

GCIS were part of these sessions; the issues raised by in these two publications were never discussed.  Instead it was unanimously agreed that the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy should be implemented without delay to create a new broadcasting landscape that will increase the role of

Free to Air television to meet the needs and aspirations of all South Africans.”

In September the DoC ordered 1.5 million STBs from Universal Service & Access Agency of SA (USAASA).

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