SA's broadcasters were "in denial" about innovations that would transform the industry, with the spread of broadband having especially far-reaching effects, says media analyst Chris Moerdyk, CEO of Bizcommunity.

Broadband - high-speed internet access - has the potential to bring a million jobs to the country, the Department of Communications says, and to improve connectivity for South Africans, allowing them to view more content online on their own terms.

Mr Moerdyk's comments were made against the backdrop of Sentech having the signal for the SABC channels encrypted, which will result in the free-to-air signal being cut off in surrounding countries. The signal provider was accused by eBotswana of "promoting signal piracy".

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago last week confirmed the encryption would cut off SABC transmission to free-to-air decoders in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

"The broadcast environment is in a state of change. Some good decisions will be made as well as some bad decisions. But there is a state of denial because of the huge demand for television commercials," Mr Moerdyk said.

"Television advertising is still a lucrative cash cow and SABC, M-Net and other broadcasters still have high demand for commercial advertising, which is delaying serious reflection on the part of broadcasters about the future of broadcasting and advertising."

Mr Moerdyk said the fact that efforts were being made to get the SABC signal in neighbouring countries showed that SABC content was preferred in those countries over their local content.

"I think it says a lot that SABC broadcasts are preferable to their own, so for them it's just a matter of warding off the intruder. It's also important to consider choice. It's the way of the world and SABC ought to deal with competition and be able to do what advertisers want them to do," he said.

Mr Moerdyk said that increased broadband in Southern Africa would give viewers more options on how to view content, which would put pressure on television broadcasters still relying on advertising for revenue.

"In future, people won't wait until 7pm to watch the news anymore. They will do what Sky News has offered and log on to see the most recent bulletin. The mobile market in Africa is one of the fastest growing in the world. Sooner or later it will be impossible to dictate content as people will have choices," he said.

Mr Moerdyk said the SABC was under pressure, but becoming more efficient would help it.

He said that while the rationale behind encryptions, other than commercial discipline, was not clear, it was likely that more encryption would occur.

"It all comes down to the matter of the protection of intellectual content.

"It is rather complex. If you would try to understand the rationale behind why broadcasters do anything these days, you would end up with a headache. But there is a sign in the media room of the White House which reads 'follow the money'.

"I think if one follows the money, they will find that more encryption is to come as things develop."

magubanek@bdfm.co.za