Icasa's digital migration plan lacks BEE element – Nafcoc

NAFCOC Broadcasting Consortium is returning to court to challenge the new revised digital migration regulations, claiming the rules are still not accommodating black broadcasters.

Last week the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) issued regulations on the migration of terrestrial television broadcasts from analogue to digital signals after it was forced to withdraw the initial regulations in September last year after litigation by e.tv.

The consortium led by the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) also filed court papers complaining about the allocation of more channels to M-Net, saying it would entrench its monopoly further.

Nafcoc says M-Net should only be awarded one channel.

The digital migration process is set to be completed by 2013. In the revised regulations, SABC and Trinity Broadcasting Network will share multiplex 1, which can carry as many as 10 channels. e.tv will get about 50 percent of Multiplex 2 and M-Net will control 40 percent.

Multiplex allows television stations to air more than one channel at a time.

Nafcoc Broadcasting Consortium spokesman Andisa Ramavhunga said the new regulations still did not address its concerns.

“The allocation is still anti-competitive. They have just slightly reworked the regulations to accommodate e.tv’s concerns… It will still make it difficult for new players to enter the market,” he said.

During hearings into the migration, Nafcoc proposed that e.tv and M-Net be allocated a full multiplex subject to them allocating half of the unused capacity to new “black-owned content suppliers and broadcasters to create competition and introduce black players in the industry”.

“South Africa should draw lessons from other jurisdictions, and not repeat the same mistakes. The allocation of DTT (digital terrestrial television) spectrum to monopolies was also challenged in Mexico and the UK,” Ramavhunga said.

Icasa said it would take into account the black economic empowerment (BEE) objectives of a broadcaster as a whole.

“Before the authority takes a decision to license further subscription or free-to-air broadcasters, it will be necessary to undertake a process of investigating the viability of doing so. As such the authority does not believe that adopting Nafcoc’s proposal is the best means to take account of BEE,” the regulator said in a document.

Ramavhunga noted that through the migration process Icasa was issuing new licences.

“Giving extra channels should be a separate process. One-to-one channel allocation is enough for the purpose of migration and giving more than that is a violation of the law,” Ramavhunga said.

Icasa’s spokesman Paseka Maleka said the “authority cannot comment any further in relation to the threat for legal action by Nafcoc Broadcasting Consortium”.

Source: www.busrep.co.za, 20100222

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