South Africa's SABC TV channels will no longer be available free-to-air in neighboring countries.

Posted: 18 Jun 2012   Print   Send a link
Business Day (Johannesburg), 15 June 2012, Ray Ndlovu and Khulekani Magubane: "Zimbabwean television viewers are anxious about a looming blackout of free-to-air SABCTV channels broadcast through Sentech, SA’s state-owned signal carrier. This follows the expiry last month of a three-month grace period extended to Sentech by a Johannesburg court ahead of a signal cut-off. Free-to-air decoders in Zimbabwe receive Sentech’s SABC signals, allowing Zimbabweans to watch SABC 1, 2 and 3. In February, the court ordered Sentech to 'take all reasonable steps necessary' to encrypt its signal within the next three months, after finding it guilty of being 'wrongful, negligent and in breach' over its failure to encrypt its signal. The case against Sentech was brought by rival’s Botswana subsidiary, eBotswana, which accused Sentech of promoting "signal piracy'. ... SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago yesterday confirmed that the encryption would cut off SABC transmission to free-to-air decoders in countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique. 'We broadcast in SA and Sentech is in charge of ensuring the signal is protected and stays in SA,' he said. 'Anybody who is not in SA and is watching SABC content terrestrially is doing so illegally.'" -- SABC cannot be viewed terrestrially very far from the South Africa border. Most viewing in neighboring countries is probably via Sentech's Vivid satellite bouquet on Intelsat 7.

Financial Gazette (Harare), 15 June 2012: "If disconnected, viewers face the dismal prospect of either going back to ZTV or the more expensive option of paying for Digital Satellite Television (DStv) which ranges from US$10 to US$72 per month depending on the package one likes. ... Sentech distributes free-to-air channels such as South African Broadcasting Corpo-ration (SABC) 1, 2 and 3 among others, which are popular among Zimbabweans who use Wiztech, Philibao, Fortec Star and Vivid decoders to gain free access to the channels. ... Anglistone Sibanda, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations western region secretary-general, said the departure of SABC would deal a heavy blow on the people of Matabeleland, the majority of who have no access to ZBC. ... Sibanda said SABC should wait to cut-off Zimbabwe until elections, to counter ZANU-PF propaganda that usually overwhelms ZBC during polls. He added that it would be difficult for many to subscribe to DStv, adding that external radio stations such as The Voice of America’s Studio 7 would have to increase their hours of broadcast to cover up for the gap created by SABC. The SABC channels have become popular with thousands of Zimbabweans, who are frustrated by poor programming, a dearth on local broadcasting standards and the lack of variety from the only broadcaster, ZBC."

Advanced Television, 18 June 2012, Chris Forrester: "MultiChoice Zimbabwe, which offers pay-TV on its DStv platform, would benefit from the looming blackout."