Imtiaz Patel, chief executive of MultiChoice.

Johannesburg - Naspers, Africa’s largest media company, said equipment to receive digital TV in South Africa will be more expensive if the government implements proposals for an encryption system.

Naspers’ Multichoice broadcast unit has had talks with television manufacturers who are confused about the plans, Imtiaz Patel, the division’s chief executive officer, said in an interview in Johannesburg today.

“They now have to uniquely create something for South Africa, which would otherwise have the economies of scale of the rest of the world,” Patel said.

“There isn’t clarity. That’s their biggest thing, confusion.”

Migration from analog to digital services will also be slower and more complex as the government’s position is that “even consumers with digital TV sets will be forced to buy a completely unnecessary set-top box, because the free TV signal will be encrypted,” Multichoice said in a letter in several South African newspapers.

South Africa is dropping its analog TV signal in favour of a digital one that offers better-quality images and a wider range of channels.

The country’s ruling African National Congress has proposed a control system in set-top boxes to convert the new digital signal into analog for older TV sets.

A government representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 11 million households own televisions in South Africa, according to the Department of Communications.

The country is five years behind schedule to migrate from an analog signal to a digital one. - Bloomberg News