Issue no 20 11 January 2008

top story

  • Call-in shows on African radio represent one of the more lively aspects of the growth of media on the continent. Anything from extra-marital affairs to the state of the Nation attracts energetic comment and discussion. However, the “nanny state” is never far away and as two recent incidents in Zambia and Namibia have shown, is quick to try and close down areas for potential discussion. For understandable reasons, many of Africa’s leaders are somewhat paranoid about controversy and the debate over freedom of expression is haunted by role played by radio in inciting the Rwandan genocide. The absence of accepted ground rules means that Government has plenty of room to lean on what it doesn’t like the sound of. But as Russell Southwood writes, this may simply force debate on to new media like SMS and owners of radio stations will be the losers.

    Two recent incidents – one in Zambia and the other in Namibia - crystallize a pattern of events that we have covered throughout 2007:

    * In Zambia, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services has banned Radio Lyambai in Mongu from broadcasting live call-in shows. According to a Ministry spokesperson, the station was under investigation for allegedly having failed to handle calls professionally, which resulted in the station "becoming a platform for confrontation, controversies and a channel of insults and misinformation."

    The Ministry called on the station to disseminate information in a balanced manner and to behave ethically. Tabb Lubinda, the station manager, appealed to the Ministry for an open dialogue with the station. "We request to talk to you and exculpate ourselves before you take action," he said.

    Henry Kabwe, chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zambia, urged the Ministry to rescind the decision to ban live call-in programmes, calling the decision "authoritarian, an assault on media freedom and freedom of expression, and contrary to democratic norms."

    "The effect of the ban is to prevent Radio Lyambai listeners from expressing their views on critical social, economic and developmental issues in Western Province. It is, therefore, an unforgivable attack on the Zambian Constitution's guarantee of freedom of expression," Kabwe said.

    The absence of regulatory mechanisms gives Government a free hand to impose its will. MISA’s Kabwe said the action was illegal, and called on the Ministry to establish the proposed Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). "We believe that a properly constituted IBA would be well placed to regulate the broadcasting industry professionally, impartially and free from accusations of political influence. However, as long as the ministry remains the regulator, there will be suspicion of bias and heavy-handedness in the way decisions affecting the broadcasting sector are made," he said.

    * In Namibia, the “nanny-state” was represented on earth by the Board of Directors of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) who expressed concern about the public's abuse of some of the national broadcaster's radio call-in shows. In a statement issued by them, "The board appealed to the Namibian public from all walks of life to exercise maximum restraint in the process of interacting on the radio programmes."

    It called on political leaders to use "maximum influence over their supporters" as they exercise their democratic rights. "Democracy and freedom of expression is for all Namibians. It will be a sad day if Namibians use the electronic media intentionally to cast aspersions on the integrity of others," said a statement signed by NBC Director General Bob Kandetu on behalf of the Board. The Board directed the management to continue managing NBC programmes in such a way that they were accessible to all Namibians and not misused by callers who intend to deride the integrity of others.

    "The NBC management must activate all systems necessary to see to it that abusive callers do not carry the day on the NBC radio channels," it said. Last year the Government and the NBC announced that call-in programmes would be moderated by setting specific topics of discussion every day. The Namibian branch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) came out strongly against the decision to censor call-in programmes on national radio, saying it was unhealthy for a growing democracy, as the call-in programmes had enormous value in allowing ordinary Namibians to raise issues of concern that might not otherwise have come to public attention.

    So what was a sore point for the Government? Some regular callers to the call-in programmes showed a lack of respect for former President Sam Nujoma. "Let it be noted that public officials deserve less - not more - protection from public commentary than ordinary citizens. They have sought the notoriety involved in serving the common weal through public office. And as such, they are the servants of the public, not its masters," Misa Namibia said. The media group said democracy and economic prosperity were not possible without public accountability of leaders, transparency in their transactions and vigorous public discussion of issues and choices. "This veiled attempt by the NBC management is therefore contemptuous and cannot be seen in any other light than the NBC heeding the call of its master," Misa Namibia said.

    Radio call-in shows are a useful safety valve for opinions that do not find a place in other parts of what are often tightly controlled media. The absence of an independent regulatory framework in many countries means that Government can make up the rules as it goes along. And all too often, these are couched in terms of “threats to security” which in many cases can simply be translated as threats to the stability of Government. However, threats to national security from separatist or religious movements do exist. But call-in shows the world over usually operate within a set of ground rules and are readily able to know where the line can be drawn between pungently expressed opinion and abuse.

    But even when media is tightly controlled, people find ways of expressing themselves. The role of SMS messaging as an alternative media in the Kenyan elections and their aftermath is worth noting. Throughout the election, persons unknown were sending out damaging allegations about candidates standing for election. After the elections, violence was often encouraged and inspired by the use of SMS messages.

    However, we understand that despite considerable pressure having been brought to bear on the mobile operators to cut off SMS messaging, neither of the two operators (Celtel and Safaricom) acquiesced. The latter simply sent out a message saying that those sending messages should be aware that they must abide by the law. On this basis, SMS messaging looks like a tougher media than radio when under Government pressure. Even the Ethiopian Government, who are a law unto themselves in the context of the continent, were finally late last year forced to rescind their ban on SMS messaging.

content

  • In its second major announcement in a week, M-Net confirmed its partnership with Big Ideas Entertainment, the Kenyan TV company which has been commissioned to produce M-Net’s first ever East-African drama series.

    Breaking the news of the Big Ideas appointment, just 5 months after M-Net first revealed its intention to create a regionalized drama series, was M-Net’s Director of Operations for sub-Saharan Africa Joseph Hundah.

    ''I say this frequently because it’s true. M-Net is determined to continue to pioneer new African content. We very definitely will meet the needs of audiences in this market to see their own stories on our screens. M-Net will continue creating strong programs that enable MultiChoice Africa to provide the best local content value to DStv viewers.''

    He went on to say, ''From the moment M-Net began calling for series proposals on June 4, we started receiving creative ideas. It was a long process of evaluation before we made our final decision. In Big Ideas Entertainment, we have an ally who shares our vision and aims to deliver viewing which East African audiences can relate to and enjoy.''

    The process of selection was a rigorous one and began immediately after the deadline for entries closed in August.

    All proposals received were evaluated critically by a team of four experts including M-Net Program Manager for East Africa Wangeci Murage and Kenya’s Catholic University lecturer of literature, theatre and drama Simon Peter.

    Thereafter a key M-Net panel also deliberated over the proposals and the evaluations before short-listing six companies for the pitching round. These pitching sessions where held early in October in Nairobi and it was here that Big Ideas Entertainment put forward their winning pitch.

    Telling stories of love, hope, triumph and tragedy, their series follows three couples as they juggle the demands of work, marriage and family.

    Set against a contemporary East African backdrop, reflecting the societies in which they live and the challenges which they share, the three couples are at the heart of this entertaining, inspirational, realistic look at modern life in Africa today. Now in pre-production and with its name still be finalized, the series is set to make M-Net history, drawing actors from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and using local crew.

    The Big Ideas Entertainment team of Njoki Muhoho (Executive Producer), Willie Owusu (DOP) and Aleks Kamau (Editor) will helm the show with Serah Mwihaki on the writing staff. Also playing a vital role on the show is company director Angelo Kinyua, the CNN Multichoice African Journalist 2005 winner, who takes on the role as the show’s Line Producer. Filming on the 13-part, 48-minute weekly series will begin early in 2008 and DStv audiences will be able to watch the show on M-Net later in the year.

  • The director of an Angolan crime film says police have shot dead two of his actors after mistaking them for real armed robbers. The duo were carrying unloaded firearms as they filmed a scene in a rough suburb of the capital Luanda, director Radical Ribeiro told AFP news agency. He said police roared up to the set and began shooting at close range.

    Angolan officials have not commented on the incident. Ribeiro says he had permission to film in the area. Ribeiro told AFP that police arrived at the scene in a pick-up truck and "started shooting at everybody at close range". He was "stunned" when he saw the two actors fall down, he added. "They went on shooting until I shouted out: 'Please don't shoot, this is a movie.'"

    The officers then stopped firing and left without attending to the wounded, who were taken to hospital, Ribeiro said.

    (BBC, 18th December 2007)

  • The Shape of Water is a new feature documentary that tells the stories of powerful, imaginative and visionary women confronting the destructive development of the Third World with new cultures and a passion for change. The film takes us to Senegal, Israel/Palestine, Brazil, and India where these new cultures (alongside old traditions) include a campaign to end female genital cutting (FGC), offer innovative forms of opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and show how women are spearheading the implementation of renewable resources and rainforest preservation by tapping trees to obtain rubber.

    The Shape of Water also includes coverage of a vast co-operative of rural women in India (SEWA) and, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to a farm, Navdanya, set up to preserve biodiversity and women’s role as seed keepers. By interweaving images, words, and the actions of Khady, Bilkusben, Oraiza, Dona Antonia, and Gila, The Shape of Water offers fresh insights into the lives of women in the Third World.

  • The cinema of the Weimar Republic in the "golden twenties" is rightly regarded as one of the most innovative periods of film history. A new book published in South Africa looks at how these films affected the culture of the country. Starting from 1928 onwards in the world depression, the German film industry was able to get into the South African Union market and overcome the previous dominance of US film distributors. The success of UFA silent movies like "Varieté", ­ "fist" or "Metropolis" made the German cinema extraordinarily popular and star such as Emil Jannings or Brigitte Helmet in South Africa became celebrities. This new book documents the impact of these films on film-making and viewing in South Africa.

  • - Movie makers under the aegis of Motion Picture Practitioners' Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) have urged the Kano State Censorship Board to reverse its decision not to censor films featuring any of the suspended practitioners, and that the practitioners concerned were not banned by MOPPAN but were merely suspended according to the gravity of their offences.

    In a statement issued from the national secretariat of MOPPAN, the body sought to clarify the board on respective responsibilities where it stated, "We would like to remind the board of the position already taken by MOPPAN where it clearly stated the grey areas between the board and the associations where the board's responsibility was understood to be the regulation of the industry and not its activities. It is the individual guilds and associations that control the conduct of their members."

    The film makers disagreed that the Board has the right to interfere with the verdict which the practitioners' body committee passed on its members, and advised the board "to concentrate on issues capable of moving the industry forward." MOPPAN is demanding "formal apology" from the board for tarnishing the image of its members while violating the agreement between it and the board not to expose the film makers to stigma by airing any statement relating to film practitioners.

  • As a further sign of the steady liberalisation of broadcast media across the continent, a new Pay TV channel called Tam-Tam TV will be launched in Cote d’Ivoire on 1 May this year. According to its owner Jean Denis Zahibo (who formerly worked for the state broadcaster RTI) he is launching the channel "in order to show the true face of Africa. Every day we are shocked at the way in which the Western media present our continent.”

    According to Zahibo, the channel is entirely locally financed and has a start capital of FCFA10 million (just over US$22,000). He describes the new channel as:”the channel for the Black continent, original, lively, resolutely positive and aiming to cover 171 million households in more than 200 countries. The channel plans to open offices in Italy, France, the United States and China.

    This expansion will be financed through additional capital of FCFA 50 billion and this will be raised through bank loans. No private chain exists yet in Cote d’Ivoire, where the state broadcasters RTI and TV2 (with a coverage area limited to 80 km around Abidjan) have had a monopoly for several decades.

    (Le Monde)

  • E.tv announced on Wednesday that it is to launch a 24-hour news channel on MultiChoice's digital satellite television service DStv next year.

    Chief executive of the company, Marcel Golding, said: "E.news is our strongest brand. When we decided to become a channel supplier instead of a platform operator, our biggest priority was to secure as wide a reach as possible for South Africa's first independent 24-hour news channel.

    During hearings by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on pay TV, the satellite TV sister company of e.tv, e.sat, argued that the South African market could only sustain two pay-TV operators. When four pay-TV licences were issued in addition to the MultiChoice licence, e.sat decided to explore alternative opportunities as a content aggregator and channel supplier.

    E.tv also announced that in addition to the 24-hour news channel, e.sat would produce a number of channels for the DStv platform over the next few years.

  • The National Broadcasting Board (NBB) at the end of last year awarded a Satellite Subscription Television Service Licence to Munhumutape African Broadcasting Corporation (MABCTV). The licence was awarded at the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) premises and will enable MABTV to establish studios to broadcast from Botswana and have satellite uplink facilities from Gaborone.

    The service will specialise in tourism-related content while acquiring rights and aggregating other channels from other parts of the world linking up from Botswana. MABTV will broadcast from Gaborone to the rest of the country with a view to eventually covering other parts of Africa - starting in Southern Africa in the second year of their operation. It expects to commission its channels to other parts of the globe in due course.

    Presenting the licence, NBB Chairman Masego Mpotokwane said it had taken a while for the application to be approved since receiving it towards the end of last year, adding that the delay was due to thorough checks to ensure the necessary requirements are met.

    Said Mpotokwane: "The NBB Board has to ensure that this licence is in accordance with the law. MABC have indicated that they intend to invest substantially in their operation, which will be good for the economy of this country. For markets with small populations like Botswana, it is tempting to target it from outside without any real commitment to the development of the sector internally.

    "It's encouraging when MABC chooses to broadcast to the world from Botswana". He said that one of the strategic objectives of the NBB is to create a favourable environment for the industry, adding that the Board is encouraged by the phenomenal growth in local content.

    He said that although property rights issues are in the realm of private law, the Board urges broadcasters to ensure that artists get their dues so as to increase local content. "By investing services in Botswana, operators such as MABC will be better placed to harvest the cultural wealth of this country," Mpotokwane continued.

    "They have put together a robust business proposal which the Board has every reason to believe they will see to fruition". He saluted Board members for their tireless efforts in ensuring the processing of the application.

    Accepting the broadcasting licence, Chairman and CEO of MABCTV, Oscar Kubara said the African continent was overwhelmed with foreign broadcasters who did not adequately portray its varied cultures accurately.

    He thanked the issuing authorities for awarding the company the licence, adding that the service will be on the market in the next six months. He said MABCTV is humbled by the confidence and trust extended to it by NBB, adding that the confidence comes loaded with responsibility and should be translated into reality. He noted that MABTV has been built around events surfacing in Africa and will strive to bring to the world the true cultural aspect of the continent, adding that this will foster tourism growth.

    He pointed out that MABTV will strive to avail to viewers at least 15 channels in the beginning. Subscribers will pay P100 in subscription fees per month.

    "We pledge to carry the African story which for long has remained unspoken. It is indeed an honour for MABCTV, the African people in general, and Batswana in particular, that a wholly-owned African television company has been granted a satellite-based broadcasting licence in Botswana, and will transmit from Gaborone to the rest of the sub-continent."

    (Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone), 19 December 2007)

  • The main sponsors of East and Central Africa Challenge Cup, GTV say the television channel was proud of the standard of the game in the region. GTV (T) general manager Paolo Pavlidis said they are happy with the level of play in the Challenge Cup, with many players showing great talents.

    Pavlidis said they expect to see the players make efforts to turn professional as the channel is available live on satellite television, and is used by talent hunters all over the world. Many players have shown appreciable talents, he said, emphasizing that this is the big success in the progress of the game in the sub-region.

    Apart from going live, GTV has airs highlights through G-Sports 1 auxiliary channel, the highlights televised after the key Arsenal versus Chelsea premier league encounter on Sunday. GTV project manager Mark Wilkin talked of plans to stage "a world class tournament to showcase African football talent to the world. We will have seven cameras including a steady camera which will be introduced for the first time in Africa by our production team."

    This year's tournament featured all 11 member countries, a huge success of the tournament, he said, elaborating that despite that wide margins still exist, progress was visible compared to past tournaments. CECAFA expects the region to progress further and take its place in African soccer, he said.

    The final will kick off at three in the afternoon, to allow for extra time in case the two sides are tied after 90 minutes, he said. Award presentations will start right after the match is concluded, with the winner bagging 30,000 dollars, going down to 20,000 dollars and 10,000 dollars for those in second and third place.

    Meanwhile, GTV has also signed a deal with Ghana Football Association to accelerate the development of Ghanaian football; GTV to invest millions of dollars over 3 years in all aspects of the game and televise live GFA Premier League action across Africa; GTV’s continuous investment in African football helps secure its position as Africa’s home of football

    GTV (known as GBS in Ghana), signed an historic deal with the Ghana Football Association (GFA) on December 20th to support the development of Ghanaian football at local and national levels. The deal is the first of its kind in Ghana and will give a significant boost to the League’s clubs and players

    The signing marks GTV’s latest investment to build a home for live African football that is accessible to football fans all over the Continent. It follows hot-on-the-heels of its recent sponsorship deals with the Uganda Super League, CECAFA Challenge Cup and the Tanzanian Premier League.

    Julian McIntyre, founder and Managing Director of GTV said, “GTV aims to be the home of football in Africa, and that means investing in the sport nationally and giving our subscribers access to their local teams on TV as well as the best of other international leagues. The long-term, comprehensive nature of this and all our deals is GTV’s way of promising football fans that we will work in partnership with local associations and member clubs to raise the bar of African football.”

    Through the deal, GTV takes ownership of the media rights to Ghana’s Premier League, in partnership with Afrisat, an African production company. GTV viewers will be able to follow all the League’s clubs on its G Sports channels as with Uganda’s Super League, Cecafa and TFF matches.

    (The Citizen (Dar es Salaam), 20 December 2007)

  • - Government will not tolerate the de facto privatisation of public airwaves through corporate sponsorship of normal programming, a senior Government official has said. Secretary for Information and Publicity George Charamba last week said Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings had a policy guiding the relations between the public broadcaster and advertisers and that had to be followed."The policy guiding the interface between ZBH and advertisers is very clear. Advertisers approach ZBH to buy airtime solely for the purpose of advertising companies and their products and services. The policy does not envisage that an advertiser tries to be a surrogate CEO of ZBH. "It therefore does not countenance an advertiser who seeks to pronounce himself on editorial matters as these are the prerogative of the ZBH management as guided by their board and the Government," said Charamba.

    - The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), has announced its adoption of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba as three national languages recognised by the constitution of Nigeria, stating that the languages will be used in its along with English.

distribution

  • GTV is to partner with Metro plc in Ethiopia to offer new pay television services after searching for a partner in the country for over six months. According to Dinir, the representative of Metro plc, GTV will transmit Ethiopian documentaries and feature films around the world. "We expect that GTV will support our football federation like other African country", he told HANA.

    GTV is competing with MultiChoice, and offers a range of channels such as European football and exclusive live broadcasts of 80 percent of the UK's Barclays' Premiership Football games to 48 sub-Saharan African countries.

    "GTV is targeting customers who have previously been unable to afford subscription-based services and have been limited to a small number of national Free-to-Air television stations as the price is not more than others" said Riade Yusuf, general manager of GTV. Gateway Communications, a provider of communications throughout Africa, launched GTV, as a pan-African pay-TV satellite delivery service. It provides international and local entertainment content with a subscription price aimed at penetrating the chronically underserved African television market. With over 46 million TV sets and growing at well over 10% per annum, Africa represents a large and rapidly growing market for subscription television, which Gateway's own independently commissioned research estimates will grow to over $3bn by 2015. GTV will provide a variety of quality content at an affordable subscription price to offer sport, movies, popular series, music, education and religious content. The service will carry both major international channels as well as a number of in-house channels, including 'G Prime', a general entertainment and movie channel, and 'G Sports 1' and 'G Sports 2'.

    The latter will focus on live sports events, including the major European football leagues. The service will also focus heavily on promoting African content.

    Julian McIntyre, the president of Gateway Communications and founder of GTV, comments: "The African market has been artificially constrained by monopoly pricing and non-relevant content. Consumers across Africa want to watch the latest high-quality television programming that combines international and local content which is relevant to their lives and at a price that is comparable to a utility. GTV will be a pay-TV platform for Africa, not simply rebroadcasts of European or SA content." Gateway Broadcast Services, a subsidiary of UK-based Gateway Telecommunications, has raised US$40 million to finance the roll-out in Africa of its new pay television service, GTV.

    (Highway Africa News Agency (Grahamstown), 14 December 2007)

  • It was entirely predictable that Multichoice would vastly underestimate the popularity of its personal video recorder (PVR) when it launched last November. By now they'd forecast to have sold about 20,000 units but actual sales stand at 40,000 in spite of an out-of-stock situation that lasted from January right through to April this year.

    Telephone calls to a few aerial installers in Johannesburg and Cape Town this week showed that they have all been working overtime getting new customers hooked up for the World Cup - almost all wanting satellite dishes for DSTv and a sizeable proportion of those wanting the PVR in order to not miss a minute of the action.

    Multichoice hopes to have 100,000 PVR units out in the marketplace by the end of March next year - a vastly higher figure than their original modest estimate but still conservative in my opinion. Given continuity of supply, they could quite easily sell 50,000 more.

    Multichoice is soon to start a rollout of additional software for the PVR as it promised at the launch. In August it is to release software which allows for recording of multiple soundtracks so, that on playback of a recording, viewers can select English or Afrikaans if they were both available on the original broadcast. This release will also have surround sound support built into it.

    But, the most exciting development will be in November with the release of software that allows the viewer the option of recording all the episodes in a series when initiating a recording via the Electronic Program Guide.

    This will be an enormous boon to those viewers who have to remember once a week to schedule recording of the next episode of their favourite sitcom, soapie or documentary.

    Of course, what this greater than expected interest in the PVR is really telling us is that video-by-demand is the way of television of the future. As technology improves, volumes of equipment like the PVR increases and the process of pre-recording TV programmes becomes cheaper - and perhaps even built-in as a standard feature on all TV sets in the future - television channels will have to re-think their entire marketing strategies.

    (Biz-Community (Cape Town), 13 December 2007)

  • - The ITU has announced the first set of global standards for providing television services over the Internet, a move that is expected to fuel innovation and competition in an emerging field. The standards for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) were developed with input from leading service providers and manufacturers from the ICT sector. Highlighting the importance of the guidelines, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau said they will “encourage innovation, help mask the complexity of services, guarantee quality of service, ensure interoperability and, ultimately, help players remain competitive.”

investment

  • Benin’s broadcast regulator Haute autorité de l’audiovisuel et de la communication (Haac) has announced that it will allocate frequencies for new licences for both radio and television.

    The move was announced a meeting that included the President of Haac Ali Zato and eleven of its councillors. Although there has been a delay in making the announcement, 98 applications have been received. Responding to the point that more stations might be too much for a population the size of Benin’s, Councillor Irené Agossa said that the capital Cotonou was capable of supporting at least four television channels and that other regions would attract different levels of interest. These new stations would enable all Béninoise to be better informed.

    Haac also said that it would allocate frequencies to the most capable and merit-worthy in order to avoid difficulties. There were: 30 applications for commercial TV licences, 7 for non-commercial TV licences, 31 for commercial radio station licences and 39 for non-commercial radio station licences.

    (Source : Fraternité Matin)

  • Angolan Minister of Culture Boaventura Cardoso announced the construction of a new film campus designed to help relaunch film-making locally and to play a key role in developing the sector. Construction will take place over the next five years.

    According to the Minister, he has recognised the crisis affecting the sector and the film campus is a Ministry of Culture Project designed to be part of the process of building and rehabilitating the cultural infrastructure of the country:”When completed, the campus will have all the facilities required to both produce and show films.”

    He called on Angolan business men to invest in the relaunch of sector as it would not really take off if there were not serious investors:”We don’t have production facilities, distribution circuits, some cinemas were destroyed during the war and others by vandalism afterwards, therefore it’s necessary to create a laboratory for the creation of cinema. Film is expensive to make and we have to find ways of making it possible.”

  • - Gateway Broadcast Services, an unrestricted subsidiary of Gateway Telecommunications, has raised US$60 million to accelerate the roll out of its pan

    African pay-TV service, GTV. Gateway has sold more than 50,000 decoders and GTV is now available in 12 countries across Africa. This further investment in GTV will allow Gateway to accelerate the roll out of the service, with a view to expanding its footprint to over 30 countries during 2008, while maintaining a fully funded business plan.

    The US$60 million PIK loan agreement has been entered into with GoldenTree Asset Management, one of the world’s leading relative value investment funds, as the sole lender and follows on from the successful fund raising of $40 million in May 2007.

regulation & policy

  • RSF condemns the 26 December 2007 arbitrary closure of the privately-owned radio station Somaliweyn by the government of Banadir, the province that includes the capital Mogadishu, after the station broadcast an interview in which an exile politician explained why he was joining the radical, armed wing of the opposition. The closure is the latest in a series of coercive measures for which there has been no legal authority, RSF said.

    The closure was ordered by Mohamed Omar Habeb, a former warlord also known as "Mohamed Dhere" who is now Mogadishu "mayor" and head of the provincial administration. He contacted the station directly, ordered it to stop broadcasting and told its management to report to his office. Dhere used to be the governor of Jowhar.

    Based in Mogadishu's northern suburbs, Somaliweyn is owned by exile businessmen. The interview that upset Dhere was with Moallim Hashi, a member of the Alliance for a New Liberation of Somalia, which groups the former Islamic courts and former Somali parliamentarians. Hashi gave his reasons for joining the "Shaabab," the radical military wing of the Eritrean-based Islamist opposition.

    (International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House (Toronto), 31 December 2007)

  • South Africa's pay TV operators are incensed about the SABC's demand that they pay for all its content that they carry on their platforms. In their "must carry" presentation made yesterday, Wednesday, 12 December 2007, before the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in Johannesburg, MultiChoice and Telkom Media called the SABC's demand "unreasonable" and "opportunistic".

    "While the 'must carry' process helps consumers to access all public broadcasters' services through one remote control and save on buying numerous infrastructure such as aerials, it should not be seen as an opportunity to create an additional source of income for public broadcasters and extend their local content objectives," MultiChoice Africa CEO Nolo Letele told the eight-member panel.

    In terms of an undisclosed arrangement, MultiChoice pays no fee to carry all SABC channels but does bear distribution costs of signal carriage, while the SABC pays for the costs of supply of signal to the DStv studio. However, MultiChoice pays a fee to broadcast SABC Africa, which falls outside the scope of Section 60(3) of the Electronic Communication Act.

    "But our agreement with e.tv is financial," Letele told Bizcommunity.com, declining to elaborate except to say that MultiChoice is committed to continuing with both agreements.

    The SABC has been suspecting for some time that its channels are becoming drivers for pay TV uptake. Hence, it sought ICASA intervention to force new TV subscription operators not only to carry its current and future channels, but also to pay for every minute they will be broadcasting its contents. The public broadcaster also says that the cost should be passed on to subscribers.

    But MultiChoice GM for regulatory affairs Kwezi Mtengenya said, "The SABC has gone a little over the board to suggest that its channels are drivers for pay TV uptake. And all the graphs and figures it relied on in its written representations to justify this theory are in fact distorted."

    Time spent by DStv viewers watching SABC channels is low compared to DStv viewers watching DStv channels, Mtengenya emphasised. "Therefore, there can be no suggestion that carriage of public service channels has a commercial benefit for pay TV."

    Nevertheless, Kwezi called on the SABC to continue making its channels available for carriage and pay TV operators must continue to carry such channels regardless of any disputes regarding commercial terms between the parties.

    Meanwhile, Michelle Garden, of Telkom Media, said that her organisation is committed to complying with "must carry" regulations as such rules are necessary not only to promote universal access and plurality of media, but also assist with advertising targets and provide access to programming of public interest.

    However, Garden argued that significant cost implications and the channels are not subscription drivers. "Rules should be proportionate, fair and transparent, and channels or programmes identified. Distinguish between commercial/public channels and national/regional and the rest must be left outside of regulatory framework," she said. "There should be 'must carry' and must offer but 'must pay' is unacceptable," Garden stated.

    Committee chairperson Robert Nkuna told Bizcommunity.com that ICASA will publish a draft copy regulations for public comment early next year, and by March it will issue and promulgate final statutes that will govern the "must carry" regulations in SA.

    (Biz-Community (Cape Town), 13 December 2007)

  • - The Media Institute in Kenya and other IFEX members have condemned the Kenyan government's decision to ban live TV and radio broadcasts in response to post-election violence.

technology & convergence

  • Algeria is poised to shift to digital TV broadcasting by year 2009 in line the ITU’s proposal to migrate all broadcasting services by 2015 to digital.

    Algeria’s preparations to migrate was revealed by Mr Mohamed Benfodil, the president of the Algerian Independent ICT Authority (ARPT) during a two days regional seminar organised in Algiers in partnership with the Cairo based Arab bureau of International Union of Telecommunications.

    DTVB technology, Benfodil adds, will lead to the development of Algeria’s content industry and the availability of more local content in the broadcasting programs.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Miloud Ameziane the director of the ITU Cairo bureau pointed out that 12 out of 22 Arab countries have already introduced this new broadcasting technology although it is early to make any assessment on this process. However, stresses Dr Meziane, it is unavoidable to escape the digital transmission as analogue system is getting obsolete.

    Dr Slimane Djematen the technical director of ARPT, who attended last month’s World Radio conference held in Geneva, highlighted the results of the ITU digital planning frequency strategy as being based on ‘flexibility and is forward looking’.

    Thus, digital TV broadcasting-terrestrial (DVB-T) as part of the new package system will offer new services and interactive facilities at anytime, any where and on demand. The DVB-T technology will also provide e-health, e-education, e-government, ADSL, TV shopping and electronic trade services to the end user.

    Jean Jacques Guitot presented a paper on the experience of France to switch over to digital broadcasting. He said their approach was to establish a regulatory framework that ensured a swift transitory period between analogue and digital, taking into consideration consumer constraints.

    There was also a demonstration on how to deliver mobile TV in the region by using hybrid satellite and terrestrial digital broadcasting platform.

    Speakers also agreed that although 2015 was the cut-off date to migrate all services to digital broadcasting, African countries needed to start preparing for digital migration now. However, the key question remains unanswered, and that is ‘will the Algerian Audio visual space be opened up to individuals and private companies’?

    (Highway Africa News Agency (Grahamstown), 14 December 2007)

  • Multichoice Africa plans to air its Digital Satellite Television services to subscribers on mobile phones, the company's CEO Eben Greyling has said.

    Greyling said, "We not only plan to introduce new programs but also new technology. In the next 12 months, we will be broadcasting directly to your mobile phone." He was speaking at press luncheon as part of activities to mark its Multichoice's 10th anniversary in Uganda, at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel on October 15.

    He said the innovation will be made possible by collaboration between local telecommunications companies with Third Generation (3G) network technology and Multichoice Africa. In Uganda, MTN, Uganda Telecom, and Celtel Uganda the nation's telecommunications operators have all upgraded to 3G technology which supports bulky multimedia transfers between mobile phones and computers.

    "In other markets, between $10 and $15 is charged for mobile television," Greyling said, adding that subscribers should therefore expect a lower rate for the service. His company charges a monthly subscription fee of between $18 and $66 for between 20 and 50 channels, on its home and business customers, for its service.

    At the event, Aletta Alberts GM Head of Content Africa Multichoice Africa also revealed that DSTV will add five new channels on its menu which already boosts of over 60 channels, in the first week of November, this year. The channels she said are in line with DSTV's agenda of improving its local content and providing services that are sought by African, on Pay-TV. The new channels will include; Trace a new urban music channel, One Gospel for Christian Music, Natural Geo Wild for people who like discovering more about nature and animals, Style Network and M-net stars that will broadcast news and information about Hollywood film stars.

    She said the five channels and others which will be added onto the menu were found to relate to the audiences and more efforts will be directed towards fulfilling the demands of African subscribers.

    Alberts also said that a recent content survey promoted DSTV to come up with a new East African drama among other local programs. The 26-episodes drama, which will feature Uganda, Tanzanian and Kenyan actors and actresses, will be broadcast in widely spoken East African languages. "We have received 26 proposals and the person who gets to make the drama will be announced on October 29," she said. Alberts said, the drama will be unveiled on April 22 next year.

    The group's innovations come at a time when pay-TV just got competitive in Uganda. GTV entered the market earlier this year, and they are riding high on 80% exclusive rights to broadcast the English Premier League. Their entry led to significant reduction in hardware and subscription charges by Multichoice for its DSTV services. The services initially cost an arm and a leg and thus were branded the wealthy people's television.

    So far, Uganda has three pay-TV providers including Pearl Digital Television which is owned by three citizens. Pearl Digital is scheduled to hold a major launch next month and is most likely to see the race to offer better services further reduce service charges.

    (Biz-Community (Cape Town), 21 December 2007)

    South Africa: SABC denies Mpofu rumours

    Reports that SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu was going to resign were dismissed by the broadcaster on Monday. According to a report in a Sunday newspaper, Mpofu was heard saying at the ANC's 52nd National conference that he would resign as chief executive of the SABC.

    His comment was preceded by Jacob Zuma's victory over Thabo Mbeki for the presidency of the ruling party, the report claimed.

    "The SABC has been the subject of an orchestrated campaign aimed at impugning our commitment to one of the fundamental values of public service broadcasting, namely editorial independence from political bias," said SABC board chair Eddie Funde in a statement on Monday.

    The report in the Sunday paper said the SABC had become part of the ANC's leadership battle with coverage given to Mbeki's key cabinet ministers in order to promote his campaign - this coverage was, however, not afforded to the Zuma camp.

    The report said Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelenzima Vavi had described the SABC's bias as "scandalous".

    He identified Mpofu, head of news, Snuki Zikalala and political reporter Sophie Mokoena as central players in the broadcaster's propaganda role.

    The broadcaster dismissed the report, saying there was "no truth" in it and that it was an "attempt to discredit the SABC and the three senior officials mentioned".

    "Accusations like this are intended to discredit the public broadcaster for narrow political or commercial gains.

    "Traditionally these accusations emanate from powerful lobbies representing either political, commercial, and other social interest groups," said Funde.

    He said the broadcaster would take the matter up with the press ombudsman in order to "clear its name" and to "rid this country of bad journalism".

    The broadcaster said the journalist who wrote the story did not contact the SABC for a response.

    The SABC also claimed that there were factual inaccuracies - for example, Mokoena was described as a political editor, but she is a senior political reporter - in the story.

    "The biggest disservice to the public which an institution like the SABC can mete out is to abuse this power by seeking to influence the hard fought human right to exercise free choice," Funde added.

    "The SABC will not allow itself to be derailed by people who have agendas that are unknown to us.

    "We will strive to provide credible information and news to all citizens irrespective of their political, economic and social orientation."

    South Africa: New MDDA Board Appointed

    The new board for the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) has been announced. The MDDA promotes the facilitation of development and diversity in the South African media sector and the promotion of the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the country’s Constitution. The appointments were made by President Thabo Mbeki.

    The Media Development and Diversity Agency is a statutory development agency for promoting, supporting and ensuring media development and diversity, set up as a partnership between the South African Government and major print and broadcasting media companies, in terms of the MDDA Act No. 14 of 2002. The President of South Africa is responsible for appointing the board.

    The following five new Board members have been appointed with effect from 01 January 2008 for a term of office of three years and five years for the chairperson:

    1. Gugu Msibi (chairperson)

    2. Nomonde Gongxeka

    3. Siviwe Minyi

    4. Prof Guy Berger

    Gugu Msibi has been appointed as the new chairperson of the MDDA; replacing Kanyi Mkonza whose term of office expired on the 31 December 2007 with three other Board members. In addition, Baby Tyawa was appointed as a fifth member to complement the MDDA Board. The MDDA thanked outgoing Board members for their contribution: Kanyi Mkonza, Dr Boloka Mashilo, Kerry Cullinan, Tony Trew and Govin Reddy .

    New MDDA chair, Msibi, a former journalist and media trainer, developed communication and public affairs strategies for different Government Departments and companies. She is a former marketing and communications executive at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and was responsible for creating and managing the brand of the agency. She was a strategy and media advisor to the chairman of Mvela Group, Tokyo Sexwale, the SABC, Land Bank, Gauteng Shared Services (GSSC), Parliament, Transnet and the Department of Home Affairs.

    Pan African Film Festival to feature Charles Burnett’s 'Namibia' and ‘The Dream’ set for Sundance release

    The Pan African Film & Arts Festival announced today that award-winning filmmaker Charles Burnett's Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation will open its 16th annual festival on Thursday, February 7, 2008 in Hollywood at the Directors Guild of America.

    Known for showcasing new films first and recognized as America's premiere black film festival, past festival features have included box office and award-winning hits: Ray, Lackawanna Blues, Redemption, Crazy As Hell, Kingdom Come, The Brothers, Gridlock'd, Days of Glory, and the 2006 Academy Award® winner for Best Foreign Film, Tsotsi.

    The festival will take place in Los Angeles February 7-18, 2008 and is expected to draw over 200,000 attendees during its twelve-day run. The new '08 PAFF website will be launched this week at www.PAFF.org.

    Meanwhile the documentary about the life of Ugandan professional boxer Kassim "The Dream" Ouma is being edited and could be released next month at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, USA.

    Feature Film Production Grants : Call for Submissions

    In its continuing effort to promote original filmmaking by individuals from around the world, The Global Film Initiative has again announced a Call for Applications for the Spring cycle of its feature-film Production Grants programme. This year, The Global Film Initiative will award Production Grants of up to $10,000 each, to select applicants during its Spring granting cycle.

    http://www.globalfilm.org/

    - THE CTO’S 3RD ANNUAL DIGITAL BROADCASTING SWITCHOVER FORUM

    29 Jan – 1 Feb 2008, Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Covering National Switchover Frameworks and Planning, the Digital Dividend, the Results of WRC 07, Dual Illumination, the Broadcasting Skills Shortage, African Content Production as well as a host of other critical issues that were raised in the 2007 event.

    m.dawes@cto.int

    - 29th Durban International Film Festival

    23rd July-3rd August 2008 – Durban, South Africa