Wednesday, August 5, 2015

South Africa's broadcasting regulator Icasa to hold a public hearing on On Digital Media's application to transfer its licence - only there's very little public about it.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa, is set to hold a public hearing on Thursday morning on On Digital Media's (ODM) application for the transfer of its pay-TV licence to StarTimes Media SA - only, there will be no public presentation from the so-called "public" at all.

At Thursday morning's "public hearing" at Icasa's head office in Sandton into ODM's possible pay-TV licence transfer, the public will only be allowed to ask some questions.

The "public" won't be allowed to make any actual presentations.

ODM - which runs the StarSat satellite pay-TV service and which is still languishing in business rescue since late 2012 - applied to the broadcasting regulator for the transfer of its Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (I-ECNS) from ODM to the Chinese StarTimes Media SA.

StarTimes has a 20% share in ODM but effectively has a 65% economic interest in the struggling Woodmead-based pay-TV operator which started its commercial service in May 2010.

ODM and StarTimes were criticised earlier this year that StarTimes Media SA as part of the bigger Chinese StarTimes behemoth bailing out ODM isn't meeting the legal requirement for at least 30% equity ownership by people from historically disadvantaged groups in South Africa.

Interestingly on Thursday, only On Digital Media and its competitor, MultiChoice running the DStv satellite pay-TV service, will get the opportunity to make public presentations at the public hearing starting at 09:30.

According to the official programme, ODM will present at 10:00 and MultiChoice will present at 11:15.

The "public" won't get an opportunity to make a presentation, but will be allowed to ask questions twice during the day - at 10:30 and again at 11:45 before the "public hearing" ends at 13:30.

Luckily there will also be time for tea at 11:00.