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Bleak Future For Dstv Subscribers

Botswana Television (Btv) and eBotswana could be the only channels Batswana watch lawfully if MultiChoice acts on their threat to leave the country.

Only those who are currently illegally using South African decoders would continue enjoying DStv. This is as a result of the Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) winning a legal battle that will see them regulate price increases by MultiChoice Botswana.

MultiChoice had said if the clause requiring regulation of its tariffs remains, it would review whether Botswana should continue receiving its popular DStv service.

The last time the two parties clashed, the matter went all the way to the Court of Appeal. That time, MultiChoice won the acrimonious battle. High Court judge, Tshepo Motswagole on Friday delivered a judgement granting BOCRA the right to regulate the tariffs MultiChoice charges in Botswana.

At the heart of the dispute was Clause 13 of the licence BOCRA granted MultiChoice Botswana, allowing it to operate as a subscription service manager in Botswana.  Under the clause, MultiChoice is required to secure BOCRA’s approval for tariff adjustments, a provision that rankles MultiChoice Africa, the local entity’s South African parent group.

“MultiChoice Africa’s position is that it cannot submit to BOCRA’s regulatory jurisdiction and risk other African regulators following suit.

“If it is forced to submit to regulation in Botswana, it may have to re-evaluate its relationship with MultiChoice Botswana or the provision of DStv service to subscribers in Botswana in order to preserve its commercial viability.” Senior counsel for BOCRA, Adriaan Botha said if

the regulator would not fully apply the clause, its raison d’être (reason for living) was in jeopardy.

“The fundamental part of the Act will be defeated,” Botha said. “The purpose of this provision is to protect consumers. The legislative purpose will be defeated if we cut out that clause. 

BOCRA’s whole purpose will be defeated if this review is upheld.”Delivering the judgement, Motswagole said, “After a thorough review of the Botswana legislation and the more or less unitary European regulatory regime, I came to the conclusion that what is proposed in clause 13 not only is in accord with the relevant legislation, but also conveys the same spirit as the latter regime.

“It is therefore clear that what the Regulatory Authority sought to do and/or achieve by clause 13 of the licence is neither illegal nor irrational, and is clearly reasonable and an expressive of the very text and objectives of the enabling legislation.

In the light of this conclusion, there is no need to consider the counter application”.

 Motswagole dismissed the application and discharged the interdict issued last October.

He had then granted an interim interdict barring BOCRA from carrying into effect its decision compelling MultiChoice to comply with clause 13 of subscription management service licences issued in June 2017. He further said the issue of costs would be argued on a date to be set.




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