ZBC has hailed South African television signal carrier, Sentech, for finally encrypting its signals on free-to-air decoders.
Sentech is a South African government-owned broadcast signal distribution company. Zimbabweans on Monday woke up to a blackout that “denied” them and viewers in other African countries access to stations like SABC 1, 2 and 3.
ZBC spokesman, Sivukile Simango, said as the nation’s broadcaster they were happy that finally Sentech had complied with international laws as the beaming of pirated programmes in other countries was unlawful.
He said according to the International Telecommunications Union, free-to-air stations are not allowed to beam their programmes or invade airwaves of other nations.
People from all walks of life took to the social networks, bemoaning the blackout. Some felt ZBC-TV has been a letdown, due to its poor programming.
“People have a wrong perception, they look down upon their own programmes like Tiriparwendo, but are quick to watch other similar programmes like SA’s Muvhango,” Simango said.
Zimbabweans still can access South African TV channels by subscribing to DSTV through MultiChoice, but a few can afford the charges. The cheapest subscription is $10 per month, while the premium subscription is $72 per month.
This is not the first time that the free-to-air decoders have been blacked out.
There has been an “outcry” from viewers across the nation, who religiously follow a number of programmes on SABC 1, 2 and 3 and other channels.
This latest development came after the signal distributor was ordered by the Johannesburg High Court three years ago to encrypt its free-to-air signals for South Africa TV Channels. It was supposed to have encrypted SABC 1, 2 and 3 to curb cross-border piracy, three months after the judgment was passed.
According to the judgment, Sentech was found “wrongful, negligent and in breach” of its “duty of care” to regional television channels for failing to encrypt its signal and was ordered to take “all reasonable steps necessary” to ensure that viewers in the region are prevented, within three months, from pirate viewing of the SABC channels carried on the Vivid platform..
Viewers in Zimbabwe have been using a range of decoders including Wiztech, Philibao, Fortec Star and Vivid to illegally view television channels beamed from South Africa without subscription.
The State-owned signal carrier introduced Vivid decoders for South Africans who could not access its subscription-only terrestrial signal.
A disgruntled viewer Zanele Mpofu, said they thought it was a threat when people were talking about the blackout last year.
“People have been talking about this, but we did not take it seriously. It happened before and there are people out there who can be able to tinker with the signals. It’s only a matter of time before we can be able to watch the channels again,” she said.
A higher percentage of Zimbabwe’s population, both urban and rural, own free-to-air decoders and have access to the three SABC channels and religious channels.