Wednesday, March 16, 2016

No new free-to-air commercial TV stations for South Africa as broadcasting regulator rejects all 5 applications over non-compliance.

There will be no new free-to-air commercial TV stations for South Africa to compete with after the country's broadcasting regulator rejected all 5 applications due to non-compliance but said it will open the application process again in future.

Public hearings were held in November last year.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) rejected the TV licence applications of the Gupta family's Infinity Media Networks, Medo Investments, Levoca 565 (trading as Hola Media), Rubicon Investments and Change TV Network.

Icasa rejected the applications since the applicants failed to supply a guarantee of funding, proof of expertise and broadcasting experience.

Icasa also found problems with the applications in terms of foreign ownership, ownership by historically-disadvantaged people, and cross-media ownership exceeding regulatory provisions.

Medo Investments was disqualified from the licensing process after it failed to pay the application fee as required.

Hola Media wanted to offer a mix of free-to-air terrestrial TV along with video-on-demand (VOD) and internet protocol TV (IPTV) services.

Last month a legal memo to Icasa leaked warning the broadcasting regulator that Infinity Media Networks bid should be rejected since the company contravenes the foreign ownership clause in the Electronic Communications Act as it is 37,1% foreign-owned and controlled by Essel Media in India as a major shareholder.

The influential Gupta family and president Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane Zuma, are shareholders in Infinity Media Networks who has been supplying the ANN7 TV news channel to MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

Infinity Media Networks wanted to take ANN7 beyond DStv and make it a nationally available TV news channel to compete with the SABC's SABC News and's eNews. that's run by eMedia Investments, the former Seardel media group owned by Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited that changed its name late last year, pleaded with Icasa not to license further free-to-air commercial broadcasters in South Africa.

The broadcasting regulator however said that more commercial TV stations are needed to increase competition and to improve the quality and variety of television broadcasting services in the country.

Acting Icasa chairman Reuben Mohlaloga said the regulator will issue a new invitation to apply for commercial free-to-air TV licences but will first run a series of workshops to help limit a repeat of the "deficient applications".

For now remains the sole commercial free-to-air broadcaster since it was licensed in 1998, with the SABC as the public broadcaster.

New commercial free-to-air TV station entrants in the already difficult South African TV market will face an ever increasing battle to just survive, secure content and find viewers.

While MultiChoice's DStv keeps adding channels, there's also On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes SA's StarSat, together with Platco Digital's free-to-air satellite OpenView HD service, in conjunction with growing community TV stations, the SABC and M-Net that last month launched a digital terrestrial television (DTT) product, GOtv, for South Africa.

In addition traditional TV viewers are lured away by expanding local VOD services like Naspers' ShowMax, Netflix South Africa and MTN's VU.