Issue no 25 21 March 2008

top story

  • Africa has few local TV production companies of any scale, let alone ones with pan-continental aspirations. South Africa-based Endemol is part of a larger international company and has carved itself out a significant position making African version of international show formats. However, less well known is its drama output and its involvement in the Internet and mobile TV. Russell Southwood interviewed its Head of Commercial Business, Sivan Pillay.

    Q: When did the company start?

    In South Africa, it was founded in 1996. The South African partner was KMM Review Publishing. It was an investment stake for Endemol International.

    In each territory it enters, Endemol International looks at who the key players are in the market and seeks to buy into one or more and create a market leader in the market. Endemol’s business around the world is the exploitation of IP.

    Q: So what type of shows?

    Those that require complex mathematical calculations don’t work too well. We try to create new formats. We’ve created a couple this year and these are sold into Africa and internationally. South Africa’s production market is not as complex as European markets and rights for programme formats from outside Endemol are also easily available.

    We handle business for Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and East Africa. In Nigeria, we produced a drama called Doctor’s Orders . We also did PlayTV and Big Brother there. We’re also looking at doing Deal or No Deal there. In East Africa, we’re doing Project Fame with the funding coming from sponsors.

    Q: Why have you focused on Nigeria and Kenya?

    These are two African countries that are on the rise economically. People in Nigeria have a higher literacy level than in South Africa. Education is the key to creating ambition. Nigeria is full of people wanting to be TV producers. In both countries, there’s a sense of ambition from people. The broadcasters want to be on the same level as international broadcasters.

    Q: Is there any other production company like you on the continent?

    There’s nobody on the same scale as us. There’s a couple of guys spreading their wings but they’re mainly involved in football.

    Q: How do different styles of storytelling affect your drama output?

    South African storytelling is a very simple form: what you see is what you get. Isidingo is our flagship programme and it’s run for over 10 years on that basis. When SABC commissioned it, they wanted a programme that would symbolize “one nation viewing”, eptitomising the new nation. Its creatir Gray Hofmeyr said he wanted it to be like The Village (one of his earlier series) twenty years on. Isidingo questions and pushes topics of social debate.

    It’s also very popular in Africa: 12 countries take it. The programme’s based around a mining community and there are a lot of mining communities in Africa. If it has relevance to an audience, it will sell. Most commissions for drama from SABC are far too subjective and ethnocentric to travel.

    Q: Are you just in the television?

    No, we’ve moved from television into mobiles and the Internet. We’re generating large amounts of SMSs on shows like Big Brother. Originally we had to go through third party aggregators to deal with this but then we decided to launch Mobivision and we became a WASP (Wireless Application Service Provider). Right now we have a unique deal in place and we gave some of this to our technical company World Play Ltd. We run a range of response-oriented services including competitions for Caxton Magazines.

    Q: What kind of content do you think works on mobiles?

    I don’t believe reversioned content is what people will want from mobile TV. They want unique content, something that’s been tailor-made for the medium. We’re about to do a series called Get Close To and things like this will usually be sponsored by a handset manufacturer or a network operator. We do mobisodes of series like The Fear Factor. Mobile TV has got to be shot and packaged differently. The titbits have got to be sexier.

    Q: You had a staggering number of downloads from Big Brother?

    There were 5 million downloads of material from Big Brother 2 and it was free. 90% of those downloads came from within Africa and of those 33% were from South Africa and 37% from Nigeria and Uganda.

    Q: How will the entry of new Pay TV players, particularly in South Africa, affect this?

    There will be two key players: Multichoice and Telkom Media. The latter has money and will be up and running by September 2007. Its business terms are very favourable and in line with those offered by Multichoice. The impact of all this will be there for viewers to see in 2-3 years time.

  • A private company in Mauritius called Parabole Maurice (the DSTV Multichoice representative in Mauritius) prevents DSTV Multichoice from having broadcasting rights over DSTV French channels in Mauritius. This means that Mauritian DSTV subscribers have to pay for both an English and French satellite package if they are bilingual. Parabole Maurice offers Canal Satellite (French channel) but this is another product and is not related to DSTV. Mauritians cannot afford to subscribe to two different satellite packages at a time.

    A Mauritian DSTV Multichoice subscriber

    (Name supplied)

    Editorial response: If Parabole Maurice do not control the rights for Canal Satellite, they will inevitably have to charge separately for access to the service but you raise interesting issues because Mauritius is in many ways at least a bi-lingual country.

content

  • Jack Shack's show, a new magazine programme, will soon be screened on ZTV as part of the new season programmes to be launched by the station later this month. Produced by Jack Shack the programme will feature reviews, analyses and interviews in business, sports and entertainment, presented in a light but incisive fashion with the infusion of humour to keep it light.

    The 30-minute show will look at various aspects of life using the fast and popular real TV concept. "The programme is a stepping stone where we are looking at approaching everyone and exposing talents which had not been realised while catering for those who have already made it," said Jack. The project will extend beyond, to activities within the community centres and also cover business and sport functions as part of the magazine show. One of its main functions would be to bring members from various communities into responsibility activities such as health campaigns, street sweeps, and tree planting, benefit shows and fundraising activities through sport. As a way of recognising the fast growing ICT community development, a website is to be developed on an information portal as a communication, developmental and networking tool.

    Viewers with access to Internet will be able to contribute to the creativity within the show, watch the past episodes, respond to issues raised and register their presence as supporters of the programme. The show intends to create a bridge between complexity of production and its viewership. "By 2010 we are hoping the programme would have had its viewership stretched in South Africa, Namibia, United Kingdom and Botswana," added Jack.

    The organisation has also produced other television productions such as A.C.E (Ability in challenging Environment), Extreme Entertainment, a talk show and also co-produced the Estate Blues soap among several other projects.

    (The Herald (Harare), 14 March 2008)

  • After months of shooting in Nairobi, DSTV's Channel O will this evening air Skika, an entertainment programme designed to showcase East African popular youth culture. Created for Channel O by a Nairobi-based production house, Mondeas, in collaboration with two others production companies, Skika (be heard in Kiswahili) is expected to shape trends in the Kenyan music industry.

    Kenyan artistes hope to connect more easily with music fans across the continent through the programme. "It is a content revolution in Kenya and we are proud to be a part of it," Channel O General Manager Yolisa Phahle said at a Press preview of the programme last week.

    Mondeas will produce music videos that are up to standard instead of relying on those produced by the artistes, which are often sub-standard. In the last two years, local content has been the focus of the Kenyan television industry, with experts saying it was the only way to attract the attention of television viewers in an increasingly competitive market. In an apparent attempt to lure more Kenyan viewers, DSTV has created several programmes with a local touch.

    They include Catwalk Kenya, which was exclusively shot in the country using Kenyan models and designers and Deal Or No Deal. Although its format is not totally new, Skika enters the scene with rare dynamism and gusto. Also interesting is the fact that it will be presented by Kenyan theatre personality Aimee Ongeso. This is a break from the past where similar productions have been presented by foreigners. The programme will focus on the region's youth culture by shining the spotlight on emerging and established stars. Each episode will feature three music videos, along with a news segment and behind-the-scenes footage.

    (Business Daily (Nairobi), 12 March 2008)

  • SABC executives have signed an agreement with the family of the late Pan African Congress (PAC) President, Robert Sobukwe, in Cape Town, to produce a feature film on his life. It's the first film to be made in the "Icons series" on African soil. The Icons is a 10-part documentary feature film series, capturing men and women who have made a profound impact on African history. The SABC's Mvuzo Mbebe says a total of R50 million has been set aside for the project.

    "As the SABC we've said we will go and make sure that over the next number of years we recognise a number of icons both in terms of people and in terms of places, monuments - so that we as South Africans really know our history on one side, and restore our own dignity. "Sobukwe is the first; we have now agreed we are going to do Oscar Mpetha, Miriam Makeba, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, we are going to do the Timbaktu series."

  • In what could become a landmark precedent in defence of freedoms of expression, speech and the media, the High Court in Fort Portal has ordered the immediate reinstatement of a controversial radio programme ordered off the airwaves by the police in January.

    Justice Rugadya Atwooki also issued a restraining order against "any authority or person" from interfering with the "Twerwaneho" programme which was, before its suspension, running on Life FM.

    The programme stirred controversy over its open criticism of government officials and activities as well as the traditional kingdom of Tooro.

    On January 8, the Regional Police Commander, Mr Martin Abilu ordered the management of Life FM to "immediately and forthwith" suspend the programme from broadcast "until further notice."

    He said "Twerwaneho" and another programme, "Ensonga ha Nsonga" were being used to "incite violence, defame innocent citizens and incite public anger against the government of the Republic of Uganda." On the same day he arrested panellists and presenters of the two programmes who were later charged in court for the same offences.

    Those arrested included Stephen Rwagweri, Dan Rubombora, Prosper Businge, Gerald Kankya and Joram Bintamanya. The group later went to court to complain against the police action where they argued that as an institution police had no mandate to control or regulate the operations of independent media.

    They summoned as witnesses key political and government officials including the Resident District Commissioner, Regional Police Commander and the Chairman of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) in Kabarole District who were believed to be the forces behind the police actions.

    In his Friday ruling Justice Rugadya said the police action was not justified and was unconstitutional. He said the action violated Article 29(1) sub sections a & b of the Constitution, and section 7 of the Electronic Media Act (Cap 104) as amended.

    The judge further ruled that the "suspension was inconsistent with what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society." He said it "infringes and violates the applicants' and the public's right to freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of the press."

    He ruled that it was therefore, "null and void," and ordered that the programme be immediately reinstated and awarded costs to the applicants.

    Lead petitioner and main programme sponsor, Rwagweri told Sunday Monitor that he was excited by the ruling. "I feel great," he said, "It's an eye opener to the local population here upcountry to know about their rights and how they can defend them. You know, it is almost unheard of to know that you can challenge a leader or authority [if you feel your rights have been violated] especially as regards the freedom to express yourself and the media."

    "Twerwaneho" programme, a civil society-led discussion panel which tackles issues of good governance and holding leaders to account, was seen as critical of the government and local leaders.

    It first aired on the local FM Voice of Tooro (VOT) also based in Fort Portal. In September 2007, a delegation of district leaders visited the VOT and put pressure on its management to stop hosting the show citing complaints by President Yoweri Museveni.

    (The Monitor (Kampala), 16 March 2008)

  • - South African produced film Taxi to the Dark Side won the Documentary Feature award at the 80th Annual American Academy Awards.

  • Latest Tunisian audience figures for January 2008 show HannibalTV has taken a 36.5% of the TV audience against 24% for TV7 in the greater Tunis area. In Sfax HannibalTV took 36.8% audience share against 25.9% for TV7. However in Sfax the position was reversed with TV7 taking 36.9% and Hannibal TV only 10.6%.

    Other TV channels got much smaller percentages of audience share. For example in the Greater Tunis area ARTSport got 6.9%, Rotana Cinema 4.1% and Canal 21 3.7%. Surprisingly, Al Jazeera only registered an audience in Sousse and then only 2.3% of the audience.

    The radio audience results in the greater Tunis area were dominated by Mosaique FM (61.1%) and Ezzitouna (25.6%). However, there were significant regional differences with Jawhara FM taking the lion’s share of audiences in Sousse (68.6%) with Mosaique FM only getting 1%. Likewise in Sfax, Ezzitouna (41.2%) and Radio Sfax (40.1%) dominated whilst JawharaFM got a tiny 2.4% of audience share.

  • GTV, the second pay television to venture into the Ugandan market, got 20,000 subscribers last year, the general manager, Daniel Kagwe, has said. Kagwe said they entered the market with zeal and there is positive change because customers have choice and quality is guaranteed.

    "The future of pay television in Uganda is bright. Since our launch, we have been growing at a rate of 20% monthly. Our subscriber base has grown to 20,000 and we are looking at 40,000 before the end of this year." Kagwe said the pay television had expanded its operations and increased stocks to cater for the growing number customers.

    "The quality of our signal is excellent and we are working to improve content through the provision of more programmes like soaps and Nigerian movies. We want to have a variety to ensure that even when there is no soccer, our customers remain entertained," he added.

    Kagwe said there were many opportunities for developing the television industry but content needs to be managed. Meanwhile, GTV was voted as the Product of the Year 2007 by business journalists at the Image Business Journalism Awards last week. The event was organised by Corporate Image. It was sponsored by MTN, uganda telecom, Crane Bank and Capital Markets Authority. Other companies and journalists were also rewarded.

    (New Vision (Kampala), 10 March 2008)

  • The broadcast of the local Hindustani TV serial on MBC TV 2 each Sunday at 8.30 pm was suddenly stopped four weeks ago. No explanation has been given to the production team. Viewers are also wondering about what is going on. Abhimanyu Unnuth is the director of the serial and the author of the book from which it has been adapted.

    The TV serial Naya Ayam (New Horizons) is based on the book Mourya Pahar Bhol Outa (Spoke the Pieter Both), written by Abhimanyu Anuth in 1957. He is also the director of this TV serial. The book was written before independence itself but it was a forecast of how the country will be afterwards. The book deals with the daily life of a Mauritian family. Certain adaptations have been made to match the actual situation in Mauritius and to fit a TV serial.

    Among the main themes raised in the serial were: the harmony between different communities, the constraints of Mauritian families, the struggle to earn a living, struggle of a woman, the economy and political issues which pertain to the country.

    A month ago, the broadcast of the serial stopped on the MBC. The activities of the production team have also been frozen as they are waiting both for a valid explanation about the suspension of their serial and looking for the green light to start their shootings again. The serial has 52 episodes but, after each 13 episodes, the contract has to be renewed in order to continue the shooting and the broadcasting. This has indeed been the case for Naya Ayam. Thirteen episodes have already been broadcast and they need the green signal to go forward with the remainder of the episodes.

    But, according to Abhimanyu Anuth, the director of Naya Ayam, the contract has never been a great issue. They have been shooting before, for their short story, which was under the same banner - Naya Ayam and had 26 episodes. They did the shooting without any contract and the contract was signed much later.

    According to Vijay Dhunnpat, coordinator of Naya Ayam, there are about 500,000 viewers of the serial. The sudden stop of the serial is raising lots of questions, both in the mind of the production team and in that of the viewers also. "Our viewers are asking several questions concerning why the serial has stopped being broadcast and we don't have any valid reason to give them. We want the MBC to hear our voice and to take it into consideration", declares Vijay Dhunnpat.

    When we contacted Bijaye Madhou, the director of the MBC, for his version of the story, he made the following statement. "The MBC is not broadcasting the serial anymore because we have to renew their contact, which comes to an end after the broadcast of each 13 episodes of the TV serial. We have had some constraints recently due to Maha Shivratree and the independence events. Once their contract is renewed, the serial will be broadcast normally."

    Questions are rising in the mind of many people. News is circulating that the fact that the serial has stopped means that there may be some personal interest of certain people behind it.

    "We are only reflecting on today's society and how politics are in Mauritius. We can't criticize the Government but we can certainly criticize indivi-duals and show their flaws. We are not harming anyone. Maybe certain politicians may have felt targeted but we are not harming anyone. When the writer wrote the book before independence, he already made a forecast of how things would be after independence. We are only applying and adapting things, which are in the book. There have been certain people who, with some backing, have eventually tried to stop the serial from being broadcast. It was for their own interests," declares Vijay Dhunnpat when asked about the issue.

    For his part, Abhimanyu Anuth is also expressing his annoyance while keeping a positive thinking. "I am a fictionist and I'm free to express my views. Maybe there have been certain things, which were a bit too strong and which certain people have not liked. My artists are waiting for the green signal to start the shooting again and they are frustrated. The contract issue is not a valid reason as we have already shot without contract. I have shown all aspects of society in this novel. Then why not showing the political reality? My artists eventually doubt of political pressure behind it. We are showing Mauritian reality and if some politicians do feel that they are being targeted and that they have tried to boycott the serial, then they are really showing that this is indeed true! And if this is the case, there is certainly no freedom of expression in this country!" says Abhimanyu Anuth.

    Although frustrated, the director of Naya Ayam still trusts the MBC and hope that things will be sorted out in a positive way. "I personally still have trust in the director of the MBC. I don't think they have done it deliberately but there must certainly be a more 'gentleman' way of negotiating things", says Abhimanyu Anuth.

    (L'Express (Port Louis), 7 March 2008)

  • The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has suspended registration of new applications for radio licenses.The halting of the registration exercise has been attributed to the high number of licences already given out.

    Prof John Nkoma, the director general TCRA told The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam that the response from the industry had been overwhelming as the regulatory body had received an unprecedented number of applications in the past two years. He said the high number of people applying for radio licences was a result of the government liberalising the communication sector.

    "Considering that spectrum is a scarce resource, TCRA is conducting an audit and allocation of bandwidth," he said. In addition, more applications were made when TCRA introduced the Converged Licensing Framework. The act of suspending registration and issuance of licences has raised an outcry from prospective applicants. Prof Nkoma said that the regulatory authority was conducting a market analysis of operations in the communications sector.

    TCRA, established under the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority Act No. 12 of 2003, is mandated among other duties, to license communications and broadcasting operators and manage the frequency spectrum.

    Statistics from TCRA indicate that, by 2006, Tanzania had 47 licensed radio operators. This number is set to increase with many pending applications. In October 2007, the authority was forced to reassign the 137 - 174 MHz frequencies. Reassigning the frequencies helped curb interference cases and ease operations in the bandwidth.

    The TCRA has also issued warnings to those in possession of radio equipment illegally or operating radio communication without a valid license that they will be prosecuted and their equipment confiscated, as they are major causes of the high number of interference cases.

    (The East African (Nairobi), 17 March 2008)

  • - The BBC launched a new channel in Arabic on 11th March 2008 with much marketing hoop-la. The channel also has its own Arabic website: www.bbcarabic.com

    - Télédiffusion d'Algérie (TDA) will gradually introduce digital broadcasts this year in the east of the country through its Kef Lekhel (Constantine) broadcasting site. TDA’s D-G Abdelmalek Houyou said the project was well under way and the company was in the process of identifying relevant expertise.

    - 12 privately owned radio and television stations are in such a state of indebtedness that they might be closed by the courts. These include: Rfm, WalfFm et Tv et Teranga Fm. This the line being taken by Bureau sénégalais des droits d’auteur sénégalais which is seeking payment for music played by the stations.

    - Zambia’s Information and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary, Emmanuel Nyirenda, last week told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the wasteful expenditure in installation of local area network was as a result of the failure by the contractor to fulfill contractual obligations. Nyirenda appeared before the committee in the company of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) director general, Joseph Salasini and acting director of planning at the ministry, Gilbert Maimbo. He was called before the committee to clarify some financial irregularities highlighted in the Auditor General's report for the financial year ended December 31 2006. Nyirenda said the ministry engaged a company known as Evolution to install the local network but it was regrettable that the company failed to complete the works forcing the ministry to seek the services of another company.

    The ministry paid K33,570,450 to Evolution but since it could not complete the works, the ministry paid K35,035,705 to the new firm. As a result, the Auditor General regarded the K 33,570, 450 as wasteful expenditure.

distribution

  • South Africa Television outfit, Super Sports and Green World Communications Limited have been given the exclusive right to produce and ensure adequate coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games qualifier match between Nigerian U-23 team, the Dream Team and their South African counterparts to all Nigerians and viewers outside the country.

    Deputy Secretary General of NFA, Musa Ahmedu, who is in charge of General Services said last week during a press conference that NFA gave Super Sports the right to produce the crucial match in order to have quality production because many countries outside Nigeria would want to download the match from Super Sports for broadcast to their respective countries.

    As for the territory of Nigeria and the terrestrial television, Ahmedu said Green World Communication Limited has been given the exclusive media rights for the March 26 encounter involving the Amagluglug of South Africa and the Nigerian Under-23 team. "Every Television station interested in broadcasting the match have to get in touch with Green World Communications Limited."

    The NFA Deputy Secretary General said NFA held several meeting with BON stations on the need to bid and buy the match but noted that the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA insisted on performing their social responsibility to the people by beaming the match, live and free." He said other Television stations were contacted but failed to respond with only AIT and Green World Communication bidding before the latter won the media rights.

    Leadership

  • The Kenya Film Commission wants to establish a global distribution network for locally made films and aggressively promote the country as a film location destination. Managing Director David Maingi said the Commission is working with leading international agencies to promote Kenya as film making destination. "We are establishing a global distribution channel for Kenyan films by entering in strategic partnership with cultural bodies that have an international presence like the French Development Corporation," said Maingi.

    Global distribution of Kenyan films will create a bigger market and make film production more profitable besides popularising other unique natural features. "We must promote Kenyan filmmakers by letting the global audience know we have quality movies, which can accessed on demand anywhere in the world," he added. Maingi said the commission had finalized a marketing strategy to promote Kenya as a film destination globally. The Commission would participate in the pre-eminent Film Commissioners Location Expo in Santa Monica and Cannes festival to market the country.

  • - The National Film and Video Foundation, SABC and M-Net are joining forces for the first time to host a South African national stand at the MIP TV mart in Cannes in April. The NFVF, the statutory body charged with developing and promoting the local industry, said it planned to extend this partnership strategy for future film and TV markets. Following Mip TV, the NFVF will present a model for national pavilions at fests for consideration by broadcasters. Discussions are continuing with other local broadcasters about participation in the South African stand at Mip TV.

    - At the opening event for the Bafundi Film and TV Festival on the weekend, Sabelo Silinga, executive manager of SABC Content Enterprises, announced that the SABC is committed to the Bafundi Film and TV Festival for the long haul.

    - The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III has commended the organisers of the annual Best of the Best Film and TV expo (BOBTV), with special reference to the festival director, Amaka Igwe. The sultan made this statement at the opening ceremony of this year's edition of the event with the theme 'Greater Heights For African Cinema.'

investment

  • With Nigeria’s first private television network, African Independent Television (AIT), at the capital market to raise some N18 billion or so for expansion, the line for convergence between broadcast and telecom is expected to further thin out and step up competition in Nigeria’s increasingly fiery broadcast-telecom market.

    “Unified licence by the country’s regulator allows different telecommunications companies [to] provide multiple services to the PC from broadband high-speed Internet access and VoIP telephone to IP television and 3.5G wireless services,” said Lagos based telecom consultant Olu G. Alabi-Isama.

    Operators such as AIT are itching to expand their broadcast coverage and upgrade existing facilities to include the purchase of multi-channel digital KV.TV system and launch of triple play services.

    With a national coverage aggressively at par in visibility with the country’s public-owned television station Nigeria Televisaion Authority (NTA), a global presence that enjoys higher patronage than any other electronic media within Nigeria, AIT has displayed more market dynamism than any other player that should see it revving up on the market.

    While speaking at the opening of its public offer at the Nigeria Stock Exchange, the chairman of AIT, Chief Raymond Dokpesi said the offer would allow the company to explore new vast oppurtunities offered by the dynamics of technology and the changing trends in the industry to meet the rising sophistication of viewers within and outside Nigeria.

    While convergence open a new window for expansion in terms of broadcast reach, it is the potential for new high stake partnership between AIT and telecom operators that could firmly redefine the market and point the new direction in local and international programming, deployment of digital switchover and high-definition viewing technology and rollout of mobile TV.

    AIT has already signalled to move in this direction with recent investment in Internet technology for audio-video streaming of its live programmes to an international audience via the web and exploration of the potential for mobile TV through opening of talks with some GSM and CDMA operators.

    At stake is a content market for news, entertainment and sports valued at several billion naira and up for grabs is a subscriber base in excess of some 15 million mobile viewers – a conservative figure from Nigeria’s current mobile subscription of 40 million. But to tap into this waiting market, operators in the broadcast and telecom market must even the lines between them to deliver mobile content on TV and TV content on mobile.

    Getting it right would also demand that the winning operators have sufficient cash in their war chest thus the pressure on AIT to get fresh funding from the capital market if it must talk as equal with big money telecom networks such as MTN, Gobacom and Celtel to deliver congerged services. The three leading Nigeria mobile telco are all poised to shoot services into the converged market with the launch of 3G services.

  • TV Cabo, the Portuguese cable operator with a significant presence in Lusophone Africa, looks set to buy rival Portuguese satellite Pay TV operator TVTEL with funding from investment bank CaixaBI. The move is yet another sign of consolidation in the Portuguese Pay TV market where TV Cabo competes with Cabovisaô, some strong regional cable operators and the relatively new satellite and cable platforma TVTEL in a country of little more than ten million people.

    TVTEL operates a triple play offer both oversatellite and cable. According to information sent by the Stock Exchange Commission TV Cabo will acquire a stake of 20% and on its side CaixaBI will get 80% of TVTEL. But TV Cabo also signed an agreement to buy the bank’s 80% stake in order to have 100% of TVTEL in the near future. While Portugal's Competition Authority has to give the final OK to this operation, most commentators seem to be of the opinion it will go ahead without problem.

    PTV (TV Cabo's company owner) said it planned to integrate TVTEL's offering into TV Cabo. The integration, the company said, would generate interesting synergies for the acquisition of rights as well as for marketing strategies and for the costs of maintaining the network.

    TV Cabo has two cable operations in Africa, one in Angola and the other in Mozambique, both of which are joint ventures with the incumbent telco in each country. Both have subscriber bases that are almost entirely within the capital cities but in Luanda the subscription base is much smaller than satellite operator DStv but in Maputo with 20,000 subscribers, it is much larger. TV Cabo has recently applied to the Mozambique regulator INACOM for a voice licence so that it can offer a triple play product.

  • - National incumbent Ghana Telecom (GT) plans to launch an IP-TV service next month, according to GT Broadband Manager Johnny Nettey. The new service will be available as part of the telco’s Broadband4U portfolio of services and will enable subscribers to sign up to a bouquet of programmes including sports, entertainment, movies, fashion shows, local and foreign news, children's channels and FM radio channels. Mr Nettey said GT has signed up around 14,000 Broadband4U subscribers and aims to increase this to 18,000 by the end of 2008. The ADSL-based service, which was launched in August 2004, is currently available in every regional capital and some district capitals. The Ghanaian Government recently attempted to privatize Ghana Telecom but bids only came in for around US$800 million and the Government, which was expecting US$1-1.5 billion called the process off and is attempting to persuade either or both Vodacom and Telkom SA to rebid.

regulation & policy

  • Nigeria’s Higher Council for Communication (CSC) has suspended local FM retransmission of the French public radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI) for three months for "discrediting" Niger's institutions by holding a day of solidarity with its imprisoned correspondent, Moussa Kaka, on 10 March.

    "Instead of dealing with problem, the government has again targeted the messenger who refers to it," the press freedom organisation said. "It responds to persuasive attempts with inflexibility, and to international campaigns with repression. Its rigidity in the face of the need to release Kaka is leading nowhere. Depriving the public of RFI does not solve the problem. The government needs to understand that it is going down the wrong road and is just making things worse."

    CSC president Daouda Diallo yesterday announced that all of RFI's FM broadcast permits were suspended for three months for two reasons. One was "discrediting the institutions of the republic during broadcasts on 10 March dedicated to Moussa Kaka's arrest" and the other was "systematically excluding calls from Niamey during the broadcast."

    The CSC did not elaborate on the second reason, but Agence France-Presse said the ministers of foreign affairs and communications had tried in vain to express their views during the discussions about Kaka's arrest that were broadcast by RFI.

    RFI was last suspended in Niger on 19 July 2007, when the CSC stopped its FM broadcasts for a month for "biased and partisan coverage" of a rebellion in the north of the country by the Tuaregs of the Niger People's Movement for Justice (MNJ).

    The move was seen at the time as a warning to Kaka, the Niger correspondent of both RFI and Reporters Without Borders. He was arrested two months later, on 20 September, on a charge of "complicity in an attack on state authority."

    (Reporters sans Frontières (Paris), 13 March 2008)

  • La Commission nationale des droits de l’homme (CNDH) of Togo has accused the Haute autorité de l’audiovisuel et de la communication (HAAC) of abuses and violating the right to information in the wake of its decision to suspend a journalist from the Lomé-based radio station, Nana FM.

    CNDH says that the regulator HAAC “does not have substantial elements of the proof required to justify the violation it alleges took place.” Furthermore it alleges that the suspension of Daniel Lawson-Drackey “violates principles of objectivity and impartiality” and shows “no respect for human dignity.” It calls on HAAC to lift the ban imposed on 19 February.

    At issue is that the journalist’s stories seem to have been too acerbic about “des barons” and others close to those in power. Daniel Lawson-Drackey has been one of the pioneers of the private, independent press and was for four years the director of the Maison de la presse which sought to improve journalistic standards in the country.

    Panapress

  • - The Mozambique regulator INACOM is about to set up an in-house working group to look at the transition to digital broadcasting.

    - The Southern African regulators Association CRASA is doing a study of what progress is being made in the transition to digital broadcasting among its members so that they can learn from each other as the process moves forward.

technology & convergence

  • Bilal Saleh, Director Applications and Mobile TV Services for Motorola explains how the service characteristics of personalisation and convenience, driven by video convergence and supported by original value added products, can create the compelling experience that's imperative to switch on and retain a loyal audience for Mobile TV.

    Standards and content. The fundamental building blocks for Mobile TV, standards and content, are falling into place. The industry is making progress on infrastructure interoperability and content management. Within the next 12 to 18 months, Mobile TV handsets will be available that aggregate content from different technologies (such as 3GPP Multimedia and DVB-H systems) and across service provider networks. Content has long been touted as 'king' in attracting viewers. And improved compression technologies are making it easier to digitise and distribute entertainment for a high-quality mobile viewing experience.

    Moreover, while competition may be intense to secure exclusive rights to premium programming, there will be a wide range of content available as media owners chase increasingly fragmented audiences. With Mobile TV's foundations taking shape, how can the industry turn the fertile promise of TV on the handset into revenues? Our research and system trials show that personalised, convenient and original services, reviewed below, are key ingredients to making Mobile TV a 'must have' product.

    Personalisation: Mobile TV will be a flexible medium. Accessed over a feature rich, highly personalised mobile device, subscribers will be able to quickly consume entertainment at times and places convenient to them. Users will benefit from 'time-shift' TV. So if a subscriber is watching a football match on their mobile device and has to enter a train station, transmission will be halted. But when they exit, the handset will offer the opportunity to recommence viewing.

    It will also provide a prompt to replay critical action which may have been missed. As well as time-shifting, network technology will record what we watch and our favourite transactions. The intelligence will be applied to tailor services through the Mobile TV device. Analogous to a 'smart client', the TV-viewing screen will be surrounded by a 'context aware' border. This will house menu icons as well as services complementary to the programme. With football clips, this may include the option to view the season's goals, or to buy screen savers or ring-tones - all delivered seamlessly and charged to subscribers' accounts.

    There will also be 'one click' access to content such as news clips, weather and favourite 'mobisodes' - programming designed for mobile consumption. The interface will seamlessly aggregate these feeds from the web and both cellular and broadcast TV systems. Personalisation will play a central role in engaging viewers. We're often asked 'what's the killer app' for Mobile TV. While the overall experience, in our view, will capture viewers rather than one particular product, it's when we have time to kill, that Mobile TV really comes into its own. By proactively offering services such as access to last night's goals to a fan on the train to work, Mobile TV will provide immediate, intuitive and personalised entertainment. It will be convenient too.

    Convenience: The mobile device is a 'can't live without' companion. And, with an engaging and personalized single Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) its convenience and range of services will be significantly enhanced. The EPG will connect users with aggregated content from across networks including DVB-H, cellular and, IPTV systems. As well as searching and accessing favourite shows while mobile, the EPG will transform the device into a wireless remote control. So subscribers can send instructions to the set-top box or Personal Video Recorder (PVR) to record programming or download a movie.

    They can also set alerts through the PVR to be prompted when categories of programmes such as 'sports' or 'soaps' they may want to watch live are available - either on the home TV or mobile handset. This example of technology's convergence, enhancing convenience, demonstrates how Mobile TV will enable users to consume entertainment to their schedule, not broadcasters'. Digital TV will extend beyond the living-room to provide a more fluid and ubiquitous entertainment experience. Such capabilities will be complemented by value added applications.

    Value added applications: Think you've got a lot of digital data now from MP3s to MPEG videos? Think again. As digital entertainment becomes ubiquitous, we will all have a whole lot more 'stuff'. Service providers can protect these cherished files and make content delivery more efficient, by creating a converged media network.

    In this converged network, subscribers can have access to secure online storage to catalogue their content and access it from any device including Mobile TV handsets. As well as making it easy to safely retain and protect content, it will also be a breeze to share it. Images or videos taken on the mobile device can be uploaded (using HSUPA networks) by subscribers to their digital stores and also to their friends' and families' libraries. When they switch on their mobile handset or home TV they'll receive a message informing them that they have new pictures to view.

    It's a service that removes file-sharing from the PC which can be an unrewarding experience for many users faced with managing different file types, software and interfaces. These examples illustrate how a converged media network removes complexity and enhances Mobile TV with original and engaging value added products. The scenarios discussed highlight that Mobile TV, in a world of converged media infrastructure, will be part of an entertainment eco-system which moulds services to each subscriber's preference. Delivering this vision demands broad capabilities.

    A broad technical compass Mobile TV will put the end user firmly at the centre of a seamless entertainment experience. An environment where a single EPG client harvests and controls the way we watch content from sources such as DVB-H (broadcast live TV), Live TV through unicast systems or 3G (with HSDPA) across mobile systems, IPTV, video on-demand and devices including PVRs and set-top boxes. Designed correctly, services will provide personal, convenient and original entertainment - a dextrous way for people to build an entertainment experience that's tailored to their taste and lifestyles.

    Mobile TV demands a broad technical compass: networks must be aggregated, a single EPG created, retail systems (to sell content) must be developed, the provision of access to near-on-demand or on-demand content must be supported, all user transactions need to be recorded, users will require network storage, and interactivity and seamless connectivity is required across devices.

    Mobile handsets will also need to be more intelligent, providing a primary interface to tailor the viewing experience to users. While these are clearly challenging requirements, at Motorola, we have broad experience across all components necessary to deliver Mobile TV and the converged media environment.

    (Vanguard (Lagos), 17 March 2008)

  • Careworn kit maker Alcatel-Lucent has become the second vendor to sign up for a WiMAX-based mobile TV platform from NextWave Wireless this week. Under the agreement, Alcatel-Lucent will integrate NextWave's MXtv technology into its WiMAX portfolio, based on the 802.16e-2005 (Rev-e) standard. The two companies plan to perform a series of interoperability tests with Alcatel-Lucent's commercial WiMAX infrastructure starting in the second quarter.

    Wireless broadband player turned kit maker NextWave took the wraps off the mobile TV platform for WiMAX technology on Monday. The company has put last year's acquisition of UMTS-TDD kit supplier IPWireless to good use, basing the MXtv offering on IPWireless' own TDtv platform. Chinese vendor Huawei was the first company to announce a joint development agreement to integrate the MXtv technology into its own WiMAX networking kit.

    MXtv is a mobile multicast and broadcast technology that enables WiMAX operators to deliver rich and personalised multimedia services including mobile TV, interactive media, and digital audio. NextWave said that macro-diversity technology is used to improve the broadcast performance over the WiMAX channel.

more

  • - Research house BMI-T predicts an increase in developers providing fiber based triple-play services to residents in South Africa.

    - Pan African entertainment platform MTV Networks Africa (MTVNA) is expanding its operations with a number of key appointments in its Finance, Strategic Services and Commercial Development departments.

    This move is driven by the network’s strong growth trend coupled with the developments in the African media environment. Furthermore, MTVNA plans to increase its formidable footprint within sub-Saharan Africa through additional launches of its MTV base and Nickelodeon brands.

    Bradley Riback joins MTVNA to assume the role of Head of Finance and Strategic Services. Riback will oversee the Finance, Strategy, Human Resources and Office Services functions across sub-Saharan Africa. As a key member of the senior management team, Riback will report directly to SVP & Managing Director Alex Okosi. Riback joins MTVNA from the Gold Group where he was a Finance Director.

    Joining Riback on his team is Chris Torline in the role of Traffic & Production Manager. Torline’s role is to coordinate cross-functional initiatives within the network. His key objectives will be to streamline production and commissioning processes, deliver commercially valuable initiatives and enhance the network’s editorial integrity.

    The MTVNA Commercial Development team has also been enhanced through the appointment of Desiree Trout as Sales Manager, responsible for the South African market. Trout’s previous sales experience at South African leading broadcasters SABC, MNET/DSTV and E.TV will prove valuable as part of the newly created in-house sales team. She joins MTVNA from the International Marketing Council.

    MTVNA veteran Paul Mayanja has been promoted to the role of Senior Commercial Manager. Mayanja joined MTVNA from its Nordic operation in 2006 and has been a key part of the network’s commercial growth. He has secured partnerships with major brands such as Motorola, MTN, Smirnoff and Guinness. Mayanja will be responsible for all commercial development at the network, encompassing sponsorships, advertising sales and affiliate sales.

    The new director general of the Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), Michel Ouedraogo started work in his new job last Friday.

    - A TV lifestyle series that focuses on the Indian community, Richly South African, will be screened by SABC3 next month. The series was to have been produced by Durban cinema boss AB Moosa and Johannesburg producer Ebrahim Patel. But Moosa confirmed that he had pulled out of the deal, citing “business reasons”. “I am no longer involved in the show. However, I am sure that it will be a great success,” said Moosa. Patel said Moosa had withdrawn from the show because of other business commitments.

    The series, which aims to give viewers an insight into the Indian experience in South Africa, will include features about local movers and shakers, cuisine and fashion. Patel said the show was not intended to rival Eastern Mosaic, which is produced by his sister, Saira Essa.

    - Grace Ndiforamang Anin, a staff of CRTV Buea is dead. She died on Monday March 10, at the Buea Provincial Hospital Annex, after a brief illness.

    Africa: Artists' Television Access calls for submissions for its third ATA Film and Video Festival!

    Experimental Shorts 20 mins and under

    Video, Super 8 and 16 mm

    Preview on VHS, miniDV or DVD

    Deadline: May 15, 2008

    Entry fee: $10

    http://www.atasite.org/festival/

    The ATA Film & Video Festival was founded in 2006 to showcase some of the best short works by independent and experimental film and video artists exhibiting locally, nationally and internationally. The festival includes several nights of screenings and installations in our Mission District storefront gallery and a lunch for the filmmakers. Throughout the year, work from the festival is broadcast to the San Francisco community on ATV, ATA's weekly cable-access television show, and screened in other national and international venues.

    Artists' Television Access is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all-volunteer, artist-run, experimental media arts gallery that has been in operation since 1984. ATA hosts a series of film and video screenings, exhibitions and performances by emerging and established artists and a weekly cable access television program.

    Artists' Television Access

    992 Valencia St.

    San Francisco, CA 94110

    http://www.atasite.org

    Rwanda - Rwanda Film Festival 2008, 16 -30 mars 2008

    For the festival programme, click on the link below.

    info@rwandafilmfestival.org

    § Morocco : Tetouan hosts the 14th Mediterranean Film Festival

    From 29 March to 4 April, Tetouan (Morocco) will host the 14th Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival which, since its inception in 1985, has continued to actively promote Mediterranean cinema. The creation of the Tetouan International Mediterranean Film Festival Foundation in 2006, headed by the Minister for Communications, was aimed precisely at ensuring the continuation of the festival.

    In 7 days of screenings at 5 different venues, almost 100 films from Mediterranean countries will be shown, together with 10 feature films, 15 short films and 10 documentaries which will be in competition. More than 10 countries will be represented, 200 special guests are invited and 50,000 spectators are expected.

    This year, the Festival will have a special focus on Tunisian cinema and the 3 Continents Festival of Nantes. They will be the special guests of honour, with a retrospective that will look at films produced over the last 20 years.

    Festival events will also be open to the public at large, including those scheduled as part of the “Special Youth” programme. Two roundtable discussions will be held which will examine synergies between film exhibition, distribution and festivals, as well as the link between cinema and literature.

    With the aim of supporting and paying tribute to Moroccan writers, this year’s Festival will see the launch of a special section which will enable the general public to interact with filmmakers and writers. Moroccan novelists and writers will participate in a roundtable discussion and provide their contribution to the debate on literature and the possibilities for film adaptations of the literary works presented in this section, which works will - at the same time - be brought to international attention.

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