Icasa announces new pay-TV licence holders

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has announced the winning bidders of the new commercial satellite and cable subscription broadcasting licences.

While the only surprise was the withdrawal of Sentech from the race two days ago, it was expected that pay-television giant MultiChoice would win and so would Telkom Media which is expected to be MultiChoice’s biggest rival. Other winners are e.tv’s e.sat, On Digital Media and Walking on Water.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Icasa councillor Zwelisa Masizsa said the authority took into account factors such as ownership and control, the applicant’s general history, finance, market research, programming and technology information.

Initially 18 applications had been received for the new licences, among them Black Earth Communications; Deukom Television; Goal Tech Solutions; Khetha Media; MultiChannel TV; Ndabanhle Group; MultiChoice; Laegoma; Worldspace Southern Africa; Q Digital Cable Division; Telkom Media; African Spirit Trading 330; Quantic TV Netowrk; On Digital Media; and Walking on Water.

The first two to withdraw from the process were Worldspace and MultiChannel with Sentech following suit later.

Masiza said Icasa’s reasons for turning down the other 10 applicants would be made available in a document which the authority hopes to make available to the public in the next three weeks.

‘Ideally we would like to complete the process in November for the smaller players and mid-December for the larger players,” said Icasa’s Marcia Socikwa.

e.tv’s chief operating officer Bronwyn Keene-Young says they now can continue with their planning and that they expect e.sat to be operational by the first half of 2008.

On Digital Media’s (OMD) Vino Govender said they’ve committed R1.2-billion in funding to the project and that they are planning to be on air in the second quarter of next year.

OMD is looking at 1.8-million household as its primary target and will start operating with an initial core staff of 80 which is expected to grow to about 1 700 people.

Icasa will hold hearings next month to secure public input before finalising the conditions attached to the new licences.

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Matebello Motloung
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