Illegal decoders enable many Africans to watch SABC
March 7th, 2010 - 12:31 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the country’s signal distributor Sentech could land in hot water with Hollywood and also get a red card from FIFA because movies and football matches shown on the national broadcaster are being pirated throughout Africa.

The national broadcaster is licensed to show movies in South Africa only, but viewers from the sub-Saharan region in Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are able to watch SABC free of charge.

Robert Nkuna the councillor with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said on Friday that the SABC’s signal was being pirated by people throughout Africa who used a cheap Chinese-made decoder known as Philiboa. This receiver is said to be sold in some of these countries by Chinese nationals who operate small shops that sell the receiver and dish cheaply. Some are on the market with the branding SA2010 to cash in on the soccer world cup.

Mr Nkuna said the Chinese decoder was sold in many countries and that ICASA had received complaints about the piracy issue from a number of regulators. “Botswana has complained that because the SABC is available in their country, advertisers are pulling ads from national television. Elsewhere it is a growing problem, which also surfaced at a meeting of regulators last week in Angola,” he said.

The device is similar to a standard satellite receiver; however it has been modified in China, to be able to decrypt the encryption system used on Sentech’s Vivid decoders. Movie studios like Universal Pictures, are said to be upset at losing revenue because their films are being watched illegally throughout Africa. In addition, national broadcasters throughout the continent believe the SABC is muscling in on their piece of the advertising pie.

Sentech rolled out the Vivid Decoder a number of years ago so viewers in South Africa who didn’t have access to a terrestrial signal could watch SABC 1, 2, 3 and There are also a number of free-to-air channels that appear on the platform, which are mainly gospel channels, and Botswana Television.