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South Africa: Soweto TV given permission to broadcast without licence until ICASA catches up

After two short runs of one month each in 2005 and 2006, Soweto Community TV finally went on air for a year in July 2007 to viewers in the South Western townships. But despite the success, the station's future is uncertain, as Soweto TV's broadcasting licence expired on 30 June 2008.

This is despite of efforts by management of the station to have the licence renewed before the contract expired. According to the station's CEO Tshepo Thafeng, "our contract expired on June 30 but the station is still on air. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) says it is still working at processing our application. They said they have a back-log."

"I am in possession of a letter from ICASA that clearly stipulates that they are sitting with our application letter. I don't know what to do. I guess I will know when I finally hear from ICASA. We have been playing pre-recorded material since the beginning of July. Our staff was on leave for the whole week last week. We took our equipment to be serviced," Thafeng told Bizcommunity.com

In terms of the Electronic Communications Act of 2005, no-one may broadcast without a licence. However, in this instance, according to Doulha Domingo, the publicist for Soweto TV, ICASA gave the station permission to broadcast while its application is still being processed. "ICASA gave us the go ahead to go on air after we were off for a week. They said it's because of the back log that... they haven't processed our application."

"They submitted an application for a new licence during the month of May 2008. That application is under consideration by ICASA 3. The final decision, whether to grant or not grant the licence, will be communicated once all aspects relating to the licensing process have been considered," he explains.

With only one year of broadcasting experience, the station has already produced talent that has been snapped up by commercial stations.

In line with the ICASA community television licence provisions, Urban Brew Studios put together a community training programme based upon the Soweto TV channel platform. Tshepo Moropa, who started out as a Soweto TV wardrobe stylist, has now joined One Gospel, YOTV and Countdown to 2010. Azul Banzi started out at Soweto TV in 2005 and now produces SABC1's premiere music show Live. Gugulethu Masina, after volunteer-producing Mbokodo, now works as content producer for SABC1's Shift and award-winning Tshepo Thobane, who was a presenter on Soweto TV's sport show Dipapadi, is now a Sesotho news reader for e.tv's Sunrise Breakfast Show.

Biz-Community (Cape Town) 10 July 2008

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