The South African Supreme Court of Appeal (“SCA”) has delivered a ruling in favour of free-to-air broadcaster, eTV by declaring certain provisions of the digital migration policy created by the South African Department of Communications unlawful and setting them aside.
Last year, eTV took minister Faith Muthambi of the Department of Communications to the North Gauteng High Court, contending certain sections of the Department’s digital migration policy. The free-to-air broadcaster was granted leave to appeal to the SCA which is seated in Bloemfontein. Yesterday, the SCA reached a ruling against the Department of Communications on the basis that certain unilateral amendments made by Muthambi to the digital migration policy were irregular and unlawful and declared these amendments to be set aside. The court found that Muthambi’s failure to consult with “interested parties”, rendered the process of enacting the amendment irrational. Therefore, Muthambi acted without the necessary authority to enact such amendments. The amendments to the policy related to government-subsidised Set Top Boxes (“STB”) which eTV argued should be encryption-enabled. The new amendments were particularly troubling as these gave the government the power to distribute STBs across South African households that did not have the ability to encrypt broadcasting signals. Muthambi has noted the ruling by the SCA and the Department of Communications has released a statement merely saying that:
The Minister will study the judgment and decide how to proceed.
eTV welcomed the SCA’s ruling, with the broadcaster’s Chief Operating Officer stating that:
We are committed to the [digital] platform, but want it to happen in an inclusive and organised manner. This ruling allows the possibility of a strong and stable [digital] platform to South African free-to-air television viewers offering the best local and international content.
The digital migration policy has caused massive uproars from multiple gameplayers including broadcasters, entertainment industry people and the South African entertainment consumer.
Drop us a comment and let us know what you think about the Department of Communications’ digital migration policy.