Two new Briefing Papers from Balancing Act published this week highlight the dilemmas faced by TV and radio broadcasters and more broadly media houses which also include newspapers. A range of factors are converging that will produce significant fragmentation of audiences in the faster developing countries. And although advertising spend is set to increase, changes in how it is spent will again pose significant challenges. Russell Southwood looks at the findings of the reports and the challenges they identify.
The African cinema sector seems to be coming out of its Rip Van Winkle slumber at last. A Nigerian cinema chain has set its sights on becoming a pan-continental player by offering a different business model. Russell Southwood spoke recently to Cinemart’s Dayo Ogunyemi.
The number of groundbreaking African television programmes is relatively small, given the huge size of the continent. One of the stand-out programmes is Kenya’s XYZ Show, a 15 minute shot of political satire, based on Spitting Image, a similar programme produced in the UK in the 1980s. In a continent where sharp comment on the antics of politicians is often limited by political control and self-censorship, the XYZ Show pushes the envelope. Russell Southwood spoke to its creator Gado in Nairobi recently.
There has a steady but increasing trade in set-top boxes that can receive Free-To-Air content, particularly in southern Africa where broadcast signals spill over between countries. Free2View is planning to turn the availability of FTA channels into a business model by offering users an FTA bouquet for a one-off fee for the set-top box. Russell Southwood spoke to Elissa Wilding, CEO of Free2View last week in London.
The digital transition is not simply a technical changeover but an opportunity to provide better broadcasting for Africa’s citizens. The best of the continent’s telecoms policy-makers and regulators have been innovative in how they have tackled the issues they have faced. But in an area like broadcasting that is closer to the “powers that be” and potentially more threatening, there has been little sign of much needed innovation. Russell Southwood thinks the time has come to re-examine how public broadcasting works (or perhaps more accurately, doesn’t work) in Africa.
The recent fire damage to Ultima Studios’ in Nigeria (see Broadcast News below) and the 2008 fire in Universal Studios’ video vault underline the importance of holding a back-up and making a proper archive of work. Balancing Act’s Sylvain Beletre looks at what the practice in Africa has been so far and suggests some easy ways to overcome the problem.
The good news regarding Ultima Studios' recent fire is that the chairman confirmed that they carefully save copies of their work.
The African television industry’s dirty little secret is that there are television companies who simply broadcast material that they have recorded off air and which they do not have the rights to. To face up to this challenge of corporate piracy, a number of key African broadcasters came together and have agreed to set up Africa Rights Watch as a way of trying to police these kinds piracy. Russell Southwood spoke to Cherise Barsell of DISCOP about how idea to launch the organisation came about and what it is setting out to achieve.
Last week’s 2nd Broadcast and Film Africa Conference had many topics but one that came through at almost every turn was the need for African broadcasters to understand what it means to differentiate themselves in increasingly crowded markets. Russell Southwood looks at what the best African broadcasters think makes them stand out in a crowd.
According to new research from Balancing Act, over half of Africa’s 52 countries are unlikely to make the 2015 deadline set by the ITU for the transition to digital broadcasting. 29 countries appear to have not yet even started the policy and implementation process and although 2015 is four and half years away, the time remains tight to complete the process. Russell Southwood looks at the scale of the challenge facing the laggards in the field.
In countries that have liberalised their airwaves, radio has become one of the most crowded sectors. Some countries have well over 100 radio stations. The stars of this upsurge have been vernacular radio stations that broadcast in local languages, often on a local or regional basis. In this issue Russell Southwood talks to Mike Daka, founder and Director of Breeze 89.3FM who has managed to carve himself a commercial niche in the Eastern Province of Zambia.