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M-Net and e.tv in dispute over DTT set-top plans

A dispute has blown up in South Africa between Naspers-owned pay TV service M-Net and free-to-air commercial channel e.tv over the future of digital-terrestrial TV, according to local reports.

e.TV chief operating officer Bronwyn Keene-Young earlier this week accused M-Net, a sister service to MultiChoice’s DStv bouquet, of trying to weaken the digital-terrestrial platform by proposing that South Africa adopt low-cost free-to-air digital converters rather than higher-end set-top boxes for the platform. She said this would prevent rivals to M-Net from launching multichannel and HD offerings on digital-terrestrial. Keene-Young said M-Net was delaying the finalisation of standards for set-tops to protect its own interests.

M-Net responded by saying that public broadcaster SABC and e.tv had also favoured low-cost converters early on in the process, but that the latter had changed its position since. The pay TV broadcaster said that South Africa’s decision to adopt DVB-T2 and MHEG-5 meant that there would be room for pay TV and interactive services on the platform and that there was no good reason why low-income households should be asked to subsidise HD set-tops.