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Sentech’s 'pirated' Botswana signal finally off-air

sentech tower 2013

South Africa’s state-owned broadcast signal operator Sentech has re-encrypted its signal to cut off Botswana viewers who have been accessing South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) television channels on decoders.

The development comes after a protracted court battle between Sentech and television channel eBotswana over the SABC’s ‘pirated signal’. eBotswana is Botswana’s only private free-to-air television channel.

As a result, consumers in Botswana using free-to-air decoders are planned to have blank SABC channels after Sentech is reported to have re-encrypted its signal.

Dave Coles, eBotswana managing director, has told local daily publication Mmegi on Friday that Sentech has 90 days to re-encrypt its signal to avoid it from being pirated or accessed through free-to-air decoders in Botswana. Sentech’s signal has previously been allegedly pirated through decoders from the likes of Wiztech, Philibao, Fortec Star and Vivid.

"Their lawyers informed us last week that they are no longer pursuing the case. They said they also put an advert in South Africa saying that as of July 1, they will cease transmitting the signal,” said Coles.

“We are taking that with a pinch of salt though, we will believe when we see it happen, remember this is not the first time we hear something like this," added Coles.

eBotswana says that local channels are failing to make profit because advertisers target the Botswana market through the SABC channels, previously viewable via free-to-air decoders.

In February 2012, eBotswana, a subsidiary of South Africa's eTV approached the Johannesburg High Court seeking an order compelling Sentech to encrypt its signal.

The court found Sentech to be "wrongful, negligent and in breach" for its failure to encrypt the signal.

The court had ordered Sentech to take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure that the signal is encrypted to prevent pirate viewing of the SABC channels.

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