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Confusion over South Africa’s encryption policy

South Africa’s recently appointed Minister of Communications, Ayanda Dlodlo, is reportedly dumping her predecessor’s strategy which backed non-encryption of digital set-top boxes. The former minister, Faith Muthambi, had favoured ‘open’ digital receivers despite the ruling African National Congress political party that boxes needed to be encrypted.  Muthambi was replaced in March.

Muthambi’s approach was designed to ensure that poorer sections of the community could receive new digital TV signals free of any charge.

However, the approach now taken by the new Minister could further delay the introduction of digital terrestrial TV into South Africa. Last year the country’s Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa), which is responsible for procuring the new set-top boxes, decided not to proceed with ordering the receiver pending the conclusion of the legal battle over the non-encryption of the converters.

Muthambi, together with South Africa’s major pay-TV broadcaster MultiChoice, had approached the nation’s Constitutional Court to challenge the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment which found that the government was wrong not to allow encryption.

A Court hearing in February has yet to make its judgement known.

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