Multichoice has voiced concerns that a court interdict brought against
the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to block the
allocation of new channels to M-Net would delay the migration of pay TV
to a digital broadcasting platform, it said, writes Thabiso Mochiko in Business Report.

The interdict was brought by a consortium led by the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc).

Last week the consortium said it would take Icasa to court over its decision to allocate new digital channels to M-Net, arguing that it entrenched M-Net's monopoly and did not promote black empowerment. The consortium is expected to file the papers by next Friday.

M-Net, and SABC are migrating from an old analog broadcasting signal to digital. The digital platform will create more space for new television channels and improve quality.

Nolo Letele, the chief executive of MultiChoice, said: "I don't understand their (Nafcoc's) intervention. Its not like M-Net is being given special treatment."

Karen Willenberg, M-Net's director of regulatory affairs, said that M-Net had not decided on whether it would participate in the court case between Icasa and Nafcoc.

In the draft regulation on digital terrestrial television, Icasa proposed two multiplexes – one for SABC and the second to be shared by and M-Net.

This was going to result in eight new channels – three for SABC, one for, two for M-Net and the remainder to community broadcasting as well as Trinity. Multiplex allows TV stations to air more than one channel at a time.

In the final regulations released last Friday, Icasa introduced a new multiplex of which 50 percent would be allocated to M-Net in exchange for a switch to the digital platform within a year.

According to the consortium, M-Net might end up with six channels. The remaining capacity would be allocated to M-Net's new competitor.

Asked whether the consortium would take that opportunity and apply for the remaining capacity, the spokesman for the consortium, Andisa Ramavhunga, said that was not an opportunity as M-Net would get a first mover advantage to roll out its digital strategy.

"It will be unsustainable for the new entrants," he said, adding that Icasa should allocate the channels to black-owned companies at the same time as M-Net, and also regulate the market to ensure sustainability of new entrants.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business report's website.