Accessibility links

SABC Viewers on Free to Air Decoders Lose Channels

Zimbabweans throughout the country who were accessing free to air channels that provided the South African Broadcasting Corporation's SABC1, SABC2 and SABC 3 are no longer able to access these channels after they were scrambled Monday.

The Zimbabweans joined millions of other users across Africa who were accessing the channels on Chinese decoders and other South African decoders which were able to transmit the free to air channels for free.

The scrambling follows a court order issued by the Gauteng High Court ordering Sentech, a company that was providing the signal, to encrypt the signal by May 2012.

But the company appealed but later dropped the case.

Satellite television expert Simon Ellis said the scrambling of the SABC signal means viewers will now have to subcribe to cable companies to access the South African channels.

"The SABC channels were being pressured by other paying networks to change their scrambling methods so that it wasn't free and easy anywhere the channel was on a scrambled system. So, it wasn't difficult for those with decoders with the right technology to decode those signals," said Ellis.

"They had no choice but to move to a system more advanced and difficult to decode," added Ellis.

Most viewers using the Chinese decoders say they are unaware the signal was illegal as they invested money in acquiring the decoders and satellite dishes needed to access the "free to air channel."

Though illegal some Zimbabweans also specialize in trying to find access codes to unblock the scrabbling, but Ellis warned this may not work on the current system as it is more advanced.

Zimbabwe viewer Tsitsi Katsere of Gokwe says she’s disappointed by the move. She says she may have to save up to subscribe to DSTV as local channels are not an option.

"I am a farmer and only get paid once a year. I don't know if I can afford DSTV but it may be my only option as the local channels do not provide the kind of programming we have been getting from SABC," said Katsere.