THE cash-strapped SABC and the country's signal distributor Sentech could land in hot water with Hollywood and also get a red card from Fifa because movies and football matches shown on the national broadcaster are being pirated throughout Africa, writes Edwin Naidu in the Sunday Independent.

The national broadcaster is licensed to show movies, such as last night's The Bourne Supremacy, in South Africa only but viewers from the sub-Saharan region in Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are able to watch SABC free of charge.

But Fifa's South Africa media team said yesterday the corporation had no rights in the said territories and consequently, the SABC signal could not be distributed there.

"The SABC is aware of this and will act accordingly," read a statement.

Robert Nkuna the councillor with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) said on Friday that the SABC's signal was being pirated by people throughout Africa who used a cheap Chinese-made decoder known as Philiboa.

This receiver is said to be sold in some of these countries by Chinese nationals who operate small shops that sell the receiver and dish cheaply. Some are on the market with the branding SA2010 to cash in on the soccer world cup.

Nkuna said the Chinese decoder was sold in many countries and that Icasa had received complaints about the piracy issue from a number of regulators. "Botswana has complained that because the SABC is available in their country, advertisers are pulling ads from national television. Elsewhere it is a growing problem, which also surfaced at a meeting of regulators last week in Angola," he said.

The device is similar to a standard satellite receiver; however it has been modified in China, to be able to decrypt the encryption system used on Sentech's Vivid decoders.

Although the SABC is not responsible for what is broadcast beyond the borders of South Africa, a staff member said the corporation paid for licences for South Africa only, yet the movie is being shown courtesy of the SABC and Sentech in other territories.

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