Former South African Communication Minister wins court battle for TV encryption

Faith Muthambi, the former South African Communication minister has won the case against e.tv to support non-encryption of set-top boxes. The conclusion of the case could now pave the way for the finalisation of the much-delayed digital-migration process.

However, the new Communication Minister Ayanda Dlodlo backed the encryption of set-top boxes in line with ANC policy. The legal battle began in 2016 when e.tv won a case about an amendment to the broadcasting digital migration policy by the former minister made in 2015 did not follow the regulation of the court. This decision has been overturned by the constitutional court.

The delayed of South Africa plans to migrate from analogue to digital, after the manufacture and distribution of set-top boxes had to be suspended pending finalisation of the legal battle. Muthambi’s stance on non-encryption was supported by pay-TV company MultiChoice, and public broadcaster SABC.

 

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2015 Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy amendment was lawful; after the Supreme Court of Appeal had ruled the process Muthambi followed to revise the policy was invalid and unlawful. The Supreme Court had said the amendment was irrational and in breach of the principle of legality as there had been no consultation. e.tv had also argued that the state-subsidized set-top boxes should support encryption, and that its ability to encrypt future broadcasts was “essential to its business plans”.

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