The huge task of the digital transition in broadcasting is beginning to pick up pace in East Africa. In February Uganda will become the third country in the region to offer live digital transmission as an alternative to the existing analog signals. However, key obstacles still need to be cleared if the process is to find favour amongst Africa’s TV viewers. Russell Southwood has spoken to Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting’s CEO Richard Lutwama about its investment in a Uganda-wide digital transmission network.
“TV5 Monde Afrique” is one of the leading pan-African TV network in particular across francophone Africa. TV5 Monde transmits to 210 million households globally on a weekly basis. 22 million of these households are on the African continent. Denise Epoté, Director de TV5 Monde Afrique talked to Sylvain Beletre about its plans for 2011.
Africa’s broadcasters desperately need to develop rights revenues by selling their programming elsewhere if the market is to develop. French distributor Thema has played a big part in making this a reality for francophone broadcasters and is now moving on to launch lusophone and anglophone channels for the same target audiences. Last week, Sylvain Beletre spoke to François Thiellet, founder and director of Thema TV about these latest developments.
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.