Thursday, April 12, 2018

Four businesses want to start new free-to-air TV channels in South Africa, including ANN7, Sekunjalo through Tshwaranang, and Econet Media's Kwesé TV.

Four business consortiums want to start new freely available TV channels in South Africa - including the so-called "Gupta news" channel ANN7 that MultiChoice is dumping from DStv in August, as well as Sekunjalo that owns the South African print group, Independent Media, looking to launch its first TV channel.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) received four applications from interested parties who want to start individual, commercial free-to-air (FTA) TV channels.

The last time the regulator opened applications for people to start free-to-air channels to be competition for the SABC and in 2014, all 5 who applied were disqualified in 2016.

All 5 were refused licences due to problems with cross-media ownership that didn't adhere to regulations, not complying with foreign ownership restrictions, not complying with the ownership share regarding historically-disadvantaged groups and not proving they have adequate financial backing to start sustainable TV channels in South Africa.

Infinity Media Networks - the company name that owned ANN7 before selling it to Mzwanele Manyi's Afrotone Media Holdings - wanted to start a freely available version of ANN7, and has now applied again.

Icasa has published the 4 applicant's names in the Government Gazette of 13 March 2018 with the public that had until 4 April to respond.

The actual applications and application documents are available to the public, but can only be access by people who are in Johannesburg and who physically have to go to the Icasa library in Sandton during office hours. Icasa says the applications are not available online for the public to study.

The following businesses applied for TV channel licenses:

Kwesé Free TV
Econet Media runs Kwesé TV as a pay-TV service outside of South Africa in several Southern African countries but doesn't have a licence to run a pay-TV service in South Africa.
Kwesé has a South African office in Bryanston, Johannesburg, and its one channel, Kwesé Free Sports was just added to the free-to-air satellite service, OpenView HD (OVHD) run by eMedia Investment's Platco Digital.

Econet Media would like to get a foot in the door by starting a free TV channel in South Africa that will start getting its brand out there and build brand recognition in the country, after which it will wait until it can apply for a pay-TV license to become competition for MultiChoice's DStv, StarSat and Deukom.

Infinity Media Networks
Infinity Media Networks used to run ANN7. Then the controversial Gupta family sold ANN7 to Mzwanele Manyi and his Afrotone Media Holdings in a "vendor financing" agreement.
Now Infinity Media Networks is listed again as an applicant to start a new, free-to-air TV channel.

While Infinity Media Networks' name is listed as the applicant for a TV licence, the telephone number listed is that of ANN7 in Midrand - 011 542 1222. The physical office address and the postal address are those currently used by ANN7, and the email addresses provided to the public in the Government Gazette are both ANN7 email addresses.

Free to Air TV
Little is known about this applicant whose office address is given as being in Melrose North, Johannesburg.

Tshwaranang Media
Tshwaranang Media is from Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) controlled by Iqbal Survé who owns 55% of the Independent Media Group.

The contact details provided to Icasa are those of the African News Agency (ANA), the tiny wire service run by Sekunjalo and Independent Media, where the contact point for Tshwaranang Media is given as ANA Pictures CEO and Independent Media Solutions (IMS), Amit Makan.

Tshwaranang Media also lists contact details at Condé Nast in Cape Town, with Condé Nast Independent Magazines (CNIM) that is part of Sekunjalo Independent Media.