Many Zimbabweans currently accessing South African Broadcasting Corporation news at no cost on so-called free-to-air satellite channels stand to lose them in a few months following a ruling by the South African High Court ordering stronger encryption.
The Johannesburg High Court last week ruled that Sentech, a television signal carrier, was "wrongful, negligent and in breach" for its failure to strongly encrypt its signal.
It ordered Sentech to take "all reasonable steps necessary" to properly encrypt SABC signals within three months to prevent pirate viewing of the channels.
The suit was brought by eBotswana, a subsidiary of eTV of South Africa.
Sentech can ask the court for an extension provided it can show "good cause" why such an extension would be justified. Sentech was ordered to pay eBotswana costs.
Viewers in Zimbabwe, Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and Namibia have for years been accessing SABC news and other programs with inexpensive receivers.
The channels to be encrypted include SABC 1, 2 and 3 which also carry soaps like Generations, Muvhango and Zone 14 which have a huge following in Zimbabwe.
Other free to air channels will remain available. VOA will continue to broadcast the Studio 7 news program serving Zimbabweans on an Intelsat10 audio channel.
Satellite expert Simon Ellis told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that the loss of the SABC channels will affect a large number of Zimbabweans seeking an alternative to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, heavy on pro-ZANU-PF propaganda.