Black businesses ignored in TV digital migration – Namec

The government’s option of installing costly encryption software in set boxes that will enable millions of South Africans to watch free-to-air television channels could prevent black businesses from participating in the digital migration process, the National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components (Namec) bemoaned recently.

In an opinion piece jointly written by its President, Keith Thabo, and the electronic manufacturing sector, Vijay Panday, Namec was concerned that the emerging black owned electronics and growing community television sectors were deliberately being ignored. “Encryption gives an unfair advantage to foreign competitors, and shuts out the local industry. Condition access, or set-top box control, will harm black manufacturers.”

Namec saw encryption increasing barriers to the entry, as new emerging black manufacturers would have to be accredited by a conditional access vendor, which could take up a substantial amount of time before they can start to manufacture the boxes. “The compliance issues and lengthy and expensive certification process alone will set emerging manufacturers back another two to three years.”

Besides, explained Namec, the encryption technology did not exist anywhere in Africa. “No black owned company in South Africa can provide it; the suppliers will have to come from outside South Africa, which means manufacturers will be paying them royalties forever.”

Namec is not just making a storm out of a tea cup. Other bodies are equally worried.

In a press statement, a body representing community televisions, Act-SA, expressed concern that the government’s preferred option “will undoubtedly contribute to killing off the community television sector”. If implemented, encryption could make television services unaffordable and inaccessible, the association fears.

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