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Investigation ordered into SABC-Multichoice news channel deal

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has called for the country’s Competition Commission to investigate a news channel agreement between MultiChoice and SABC.

The request follows an agreement dating from last summer that saw public broadcaster SABC (the South African Broadcasting Corporation) provide a 24-hour news channel on pay TV operator MultiChoice’s DStv platform.

In a statement, the ICASA said that reports at the time indicated that, as part of the deal, SABC may have agreed to transmit its free-to-air channels without encryption – something it argued should now be investigated in light of MultiChoice’s ongoing spat with the South African government about set-top box encryption.

The communications authority said if the deal impacts on set-top box control, it “may constitute a form of restrictive horizontal practice in the television market.”

“ICASA has requested both the SABC and MultiChoice to provide a copy of the agreement but both parties have failed to honour that request,” said ICASA.

It claims that this makes it difficult to verify MultiChoice’s claim that it is not engaging in a “horizontal restrictive practise.”

Last month, Multichoice has become embroiled in a war of words with South Africa’s minister of communications over the government’s plans to include set-top box encryption as part of the country’s already-delayed migration to digital.