Sunday, July 6, 2014

Icasa tells parliament: Perhaps community TV stations in South Africa should be converted to provincial TV broadcasters to help pay for DTT.

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The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) told parliament that community television stations in South Africa should possibly be converted to provincial TV stations so that they can help pay, help lower, and help offset the cost of digital broadcasting when South Africa eventually switch from analogue to digital television broadcasting.

Icasa which regulates broadcasting in South Africa, is raising the option of changing the community TV licenses issued to the growing number of community TV stations in South Africa to provincial TV licenses.

With a bigger footprint, and broadcasting to a bigger audience across an entire province instead of a city, a community TV station will get more viewers, higher ratings and more advertising and sponsorship income.

Icasa reasons that these provincial TV stations will then have to pay more and contribute more to the overall cost of broadcasting signal distribution in South Africa.

In terms of South Africa's migration from analogue television to digital terrestrial television (DTT), a process known as digital migration, Pakamile Pongwana said it is expensive and that "more broadcasting entities" are needed to help pay for the infrastructure being set up for digital terrestrial television.

Icasa has had discussions with Sentech, the parastatal broadcast signal distributor, about the DTT rate card because the prices that will be charged to broadcasters for making their digital TV channel signals available are costly.

"It is costly. Even Sentech has indicated that it is costly, but says it is because they're forced to distribute their cost among a few entities".

"If we licence more entities in free-to-air (FTA) TV broadcasters then there's more entities who can share the cost," said Pakamile Pongwana.

"Some possibilities is that there are TV channels available in certain provinces. Perhaps we need to licence at provincial level. Perhaps we need to make sure that there's free-to-air TV broadcasters at provincial level. And even consider converting community TV stations to provincial licenses," said Pakamile Pongwana.

"Then Sentech has got a huge number of entities that they are able to charge for the infrastructure that they've rolled out".

"We provide signal distribution services to most of the community TV broadcasters in South Africa. We understand their problems," Setumo Mohapi, Sentech CEO, told parliament on Friday.

"We understand the sensitivity of the signal distribution costs to the cost of operating their services. We have previously reduced our tariffs. But we understand that that might not be enough".