Issue no 39 2 October 2008
Last week saw 200 African broadcasters and film-makers gather for the first genuinely pan-African conference for these two important sectors. There was a palpable excitement in the air as participants realised that the African broadcast and film industries are at a turning point with both increased audiences and investment. One recurring theme throughout the conference was the contradictory need for local content that might travel well to other countries and the relationship with the cost of international rights. Other themes (advertising, digitalisation and convergence) are picked up in stories in the news sections below. Russell Southwood reports on the consistent drum-beat for more content with people you recognize.
The conference was opened by Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga who spoke of the “expanded democratic space” that was “due to an insistent media.” But the politicians had no sooner left the stage than the CEO of Capital Radio, Chris Kirubi (himself a DJ) told the conference:”We need to tell our own story. If not, India and America will tell our story”.
As anyone familiar with African broadcasting knows, this aspiration is generally defeated by the very cheap cost of international programming rights. Ian Fernandes, who used to head up Nation TV and now runs their Digital Division, pointed out some of the obstacles.
“Local content is six times more expensive than international programming. The way around it has been to have NGO or commercially sponsored programmes. For example, Tusker Project Fame and Celtel Challenge. But these have been so heavily branded that other advertisers don’t want to participate”.
The existence of common language groups like swahili might offer the mirage of a potential co-production space but even these were plagued with difficulties:”There are various variations of swahili that make it difficult for Tanzanians to understand Kenyan swahili and it is not much spoken in Uganda”. Nevertheless Rwanda TV’s Deputy Director Kije Mugisha pointed much later in the conference that there were 17 million people in the Great Lakes region (Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda) who understand kinyarwanda.
Ghana Broadcasting Corporation’s Director of Television Kofi Bucknor took a more ambitious approach seeing Africa’s public broadcasters as the key to making “a continental audience feasible”. He envisaged them working together to show programmes across the continent as they had already done with Anti-AIDS programmes under the Africa Broadcast Media Programme. This would increase “public value” access across the continent. However, he opened his speech by saying that his background was in the private sector and that working for GBC was one of the hardest things that he’d done. So this approach is inevitably not without its own problems.
David Kimotho, Director of Operations for Kenya’s new news channel K24 and KFM pointed out that one of the problems was the broadcasters rather unchanging approach to programming through the day:”TV formats are generally similar. It’s entertainment with 2-3 news bulletins”.
Another speaker was David Campbell, producer of successful Kenyan programme Makutano Junction now in its eighth season: its audiences have gone from 3.9 million in 2006 to 6.9 million in 2008. He made a carefully articulated commercial argument using audience data to show that local programmes both attract audience share individually and build higher levels of overall channel market share. His approach to local programming involved staying close to his audience’s information needs: issues raised in the programme attracted 20,000 SMS requests for leaflets every week and the company has a database of 30,000 audience members.
He argued that television channels in Kenya were now able to reach far more people than the country’s fragmented radio sector. The proportion of people saying they had watched TV in the last seven days has gone up from 32% in 2002 to 64% in 2004.
He pointed out that in his view the middle class Kenyans responsible for making programming and advertising decisions colluded in downgrading the idea of local programmes:” C2s and Ds are not interested in Mexican soaps and Prison Break. These audiences are largely served by KBC and Citizen TV. Advertising is aimed at AB socio-economic groups and this is reflected in programming choices like Prison Break”.
In response to an audience question, Saracen Media Partner Lenny Nganga confirmed that some clients overrode its planning advice to choose particular ad placements on a subjective basis. He pointed out that TV channels have to build strong brands and create new audiences because attention is the new currency.
Again with the use of audience data, Steadman’s Director of Media Monitoring Joe Otin told participants:”Kenyan programmes pull more audiences than foreign content: there are the examples of Tusker Fame Project, Inspekta Mwda, Taludi High and Papa Shuvandula. This is an argument to advertisers for programme innovation”.
One of the bravest speakers at the conference was the Director of Kenyan production company Big Ideas who have recently been commissioned by MNet to do a drama series. He pointed that it was difficult locally to get scriptwriters who had genre skills in depth: everyone was a “jack-of-all-trades" as there is so little local work. This put production companies into a bind:” Broadcasters say to us: How do we know the ideas you’re putting to us are going to work? This series will establish a reputation for what we do”.
Joe Hundah, Director of Operations, MNet crystallised what was is changing in the African broadcast sector by describing its contribution to local content. The company has created MNet West and MNet East to allow for some degree of localisation. Its New Directions initiative has seen 44 films produced. But Hundah echoed more sharply the point made many times:”The costs for one hour of local drama is the same price as for one hour of Oprah. But we need content appreciated across Africa”
In 2003 DStv created Africa Magic channel. Hundah wryly remembered that:” it was criticised for poor production values but it has created Nollywood stars. You can now buy Nollywood DVDs in New York. Producers have to see beyond their own shores. Africans would prefer to watch things about themselves with low production values than high production values with people they can’t identify with. Several high-budget Nollywood movies have been made but there’s no evidence that they have done any better.” It has launched a new channel, Africa Magic Plus which is designed to be a channel that encourages African content from outside Nigeria. It was hard to fault the list of things he wanted African Governments should to do to change things: fighting piracy; giving tax breaks for production; and finding the funds to encourage filming. Finally he said that African film-makers should “produce at costs you can afford”.
Indeed in the opening ceremony, Minister of Information and Communications Samuel Poghiso promised: “We are developing a policy to develop the film sector” and Prime Minister Raila Odinga had set the stage for this by claiming:”We can make this place the Hollywood of Africa.” You can’t fault him on ambition.
MTV Networks Africa’s MD Alex Akosi pointed out how local content was now part of a global dialogue, particularly for youth:”Africa is a young continent and the demographic is vast. 60% of the continent is under 25. Youth culture permeates across all continents. It’s a global phenomenon. You don’t have to be in a loin cloth to define yourself as an African”. He pointed out that the training initiative (see Content news below) it had run had improved local skills to produce music videos:” Nigeria used to produce the worst music videos, now we’re trying to limit the number in order to stay Pan-African”. As with football, Africa needs to work out how to take advantage of its participation in the global market for ideas and content.
As perceptions of Africa change, it is drawing in new investment. Al Jazeera’s Director Global Distribution told the conference that it was developing a news centre in Nairobi that would tell Africa’s story from a “global south” perspective and that by this month its English-language channel would be reaching 15 million households across the continent.
If local content was hard to get, various speakers at the conference made the case that they were being locked out of access to various rights by the “new kids on the block”, the Pay TV companies. But as ever with villains and heroes, the matter is slightly more complex.
Wananchi’s Group CEO Euan Fannell talked about its difficulty in getting access to content as it seeks to develop its “triple play” offer in Kenya. It has agreements with 37 English language content providers and 40 Hindi producers. Of initial channels it wanted to provide, 21 or 28% had a pre-existing exclusivity:”We asked if we could sub-licence and most said no. This represents the most popular programmes and programming genres...There are two important genres that drive the business: sports and movies. Other multi-channel operators have packaged their own channels (on the basis of these genres). These (programmes) are not available to us. This is not sensible to us as we will be a distributor.”
Piracy is acting as a barrier to getting rights at a reasonable price:”Because of high levels of piracy in the region, rights holders ask for large minimum guarantees. If you want my content, you have to pay a minimum guarantee of US$50,00 per month. Even though you may be making a loss. They have the advantage in the bargaining because there is a lot of constraint on our capital”. He repeated the point about the primacy of local content:” Content in the national language always does best even over Hollywood…There is a limited availability of original regional programming, particularly in Swahili”. He also pointed out that local social restraints prevent the marketing of local adult content.
The development of Video On Demand (VOD) and Pay Per View (PPV) programming are constrained by the lack of a subscriber base. VOD and PPV rights holders ask for guarantees of US$100,000 and take 60% of what the company might earn:”Other players are buying all rights including these to lock us out”.
Toyin Subair, CEO of Nigeria’s newest Pay-TV station, Hi-TV, formerly a lawyer by trade laid out the case from his perspective:”Given the limited supply of premium content, monopoly control of such programming material may effectively foreclose the creation of effective distribution systems or restrict their development... Market foreclosure is the limit of market exclusivity. Exclusivity is not illegal but market foreclosure is”.
He then went on to argue for the break-up of rights by individual country in Africa. African rights used to be sold as a continental bloc when they were the “chump change” of global rights sales. Over time, the larger territories like Nigeria and South Africa have been broken out. Subair took this logic to its ultimate conclusion arguing that all the 50 plus countries of Africa should have the opportunity to bid on a country-by-country basis.
His argument was two-fold: the rights holders would realise a far higher level of income and that individual local companies would then be able to afford to get into the business of buying their own rights and thus make more money for their own country.
As if on cue, DISCOP’s Head of Buyer Relations – Africa, Cherise Barsell told the conference that it was producing the first African content market in Dakar next February and pointed out that:“Co-productions and barter deals facilitate content production in emerging markets.
The doyen of African sports rights, now Chief Executive of Setanta Africa, Barry Lambert poked the continent’s sore point – the Africa Cup of Nations - very effectively:” This is sensitive point for me personally but I’m going to tread on a few toes. CAF, the football association of Africa sells these rights to an agent who sells it back to Africa for 20-40 times the price it was bought at”.
“Kenya was asked for 750,000 euros when they became finalists. The Kenya Football Federation were in dire straits (because of fraud by its directors). The Government had to step in and find the money to send the team to the finals in Egypt. People also would not be able to see the match because KBC couldn’t raise the 750,000 euros. Again the Government gave the money to KBC. What happens next year to KBC’s budget? 750,000 euros are deducted from this year’s budget”.
“FTA players should come together to bid for it. Football Associations of Africa must say to CAF you can’t keep exploiting the continent. You need to ask them to set a limit on the fee paid by broadcasters”.
GBC’s Kofi Bucknor summed up the dangers for African broadcasters in the face of the challenges of change:” If we are left behind, it will be a self-inflicted result – the African tendency to hold on and wait until something happens”.
MTV Base, a Pan-African music television channel, in collaboration with Shell, an oil marketing company, is set to provide a global platform for artistes in Africa, as its music video show dubbed; "Making the Video Challenge with Shell" takes off next month.
Alison Reid of MTV Base who launched the event at a news conference in Accra on Wednesday, said the initiative was designed to challenge and empower young directors and moviemakers, to develop their skills to improve the quality of music video production on the continent.
She noted that the initiative would put African filmmakers, and music video directors, in direct contact with their peers from the international directing scene, allowing them to gain new skills and share insights.
Reid said that as part of the show, there would be a competition between a team of directors from each of the regions of the continent, to come up with creative, original and conceptual videos for a given song.
Kwaw Kese, a Ghanaian "hip hop" artiste, will partner veteran international director, Anthony Mandler, Professor J., a Tanzanian artiste, and a group of Ghanaian video directors, to recreate a remix of "Who Be You," a track by the Ghanaian artiste.
The show, which is the second of its kind, started in South Africa in August, and has gone through Kenya and Nigeria, and now in Ghana, and would be aired weekly across sub-Saharan Africa on DStv channel 322, TV3, NTV in Kenya STV/AIT in Nigeria and WBS-TV in Uganda.
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra) 22 September 2008
The independent British systems integrator Megahertz Broadcast Systems (MHz), announced this weekend that it has completed work on the server-based infrastructure and broadcast systems for a new 24-hour news channel at South African broadcaster e.TV.
Alongside the state-of-the-art file-based facility and workflow for the startup news channel, the project also included two new DSNG vehicles for current affairs coverage in and around Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. These were built at MHz’s UK headquarters and incorporated an innovative satellite remote-control system, M2RC, developed by MHz engineers at e.TV’s request.
Between March and the start of June, when the news channel was launched, the MHz team led by former South African resident Don Wilson, oversaw the design and construction of both a main and a subsidiary news production studio - the latter used for pre-recording interviews and features.
GlobeCast was chosen by TAM TAM TV, the first private television channel in Côte d’Ivoire, to provide a broadcast solution that combines remote broadcast delivery via internet with satellite distribution of the general entertainment channel.
GlobeCast’s broadcast solution allows TAM TAM TV to have total control of its content from its control room in Abidjan, thanks to a simple Internet connection, and within the budget of a start-up channel.
TAM TAM TV’s programmes, managed locally and autonomously by the channel, are sent via the Internet to GlobeCast’s technical operations centre in Paris. Technology developed by GlobeCast and integrated into a PC-compatible content management programme also allows TAM TAM TV to construct its daily playlist from Côte d’Ivoire, and to send and control its delivery via internet to the European satellite distribution server in Paris, itself connected to the EUROBIRD 9 satellite platform.
GlobeCast has also set up a return feed via internet that allows TAM TAM TV to monitor the signal in real time from its office in Côte d’Ivoire.
The major advantages of the end-to-end solution offered to TAM TAM TV include its cost-effectiveness and its portability, allowing the channel to supervise and even modify its programming from any Internet connection.
The recent introduction of a new lineup of news bulletins at state-owned BTV has left multicultural coalition of Botswana advocacy group - RETENG - disappointed because no indigenous language, besides Setswana, was given a slot.
Professor Lydia Nyati-Ramahobo, the secretary general of RETENG lamented that the government is not willing to listen to those who want to promote other indigenous languages. She said they have tried to approach government on the use of more indigenous languages in the state media but they have been given the merry-go-round with nobody willing to talk about the issue. In a letter dated April 15, 2008 RETENG called for a meeting with the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who is in charge of state media.
In response, Venson-Moitoi advised the organisation to address its request to the University of Botswana (UB) Language Advisory Board and the Ministry of Education who are responsible for language development. "The Ministry of Communications Science and Technology only implements the recommendations from above mentioned institutions," Venson-Moitoi replied.
Ramahobo revealed that their investigations at UB found that the board the minister talked about is non-existent. "We have been tossed around. We were scheduled to meet with the Ministry of Education but they cancelled the meeting at the last minute," she said. She thinks a majority of people in the country are non-Setswana speakers, hence the introduction of other languages in state media will be of great benefit.
Attempts to get a comment from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture were unsuccessful, as the principal public relations officer Keneilwe Segopolo declined an interview on the grounds that she is not a policy maker but a mere civil servant. The director of Broadcasting Services Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo could not be reached because he has been in meetings since last week. He promised to call back but never did.
Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone) 26 September 2008
- Ralph Ziman’s Jerusalema, the new South African gangster drama, has made R1.2m at the local box office as at 11 September. The box office is still being dominated by the Meryl Streep/ Pierce Brosnan/ Abba musical, Mama Mia, which has clocked up R7.m in just two weeks.Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder made R1.1 in its opening week and Babylon AD R844 109 in its debut.Other big performers are the long running The Dark Knight at R13.3m (seven weeks) and Hancock at R16.4m (10 weeks).
- Seduction 101, a 13-week mobisoap created by South Africa director Donovan Marsh together with writer Gillian Breslin and produced by Curious Pictures, has been selected as a finalist in MIPCOM’s cross platform media screenings. MIPCOM, the premier global TV programming market runs in Cannes, France from 13 to 17 October.
- DStv's Hallmark Channel in South Africa has unveiled a fresh new look which is set to make its television viewers into television stars. Changes to the channel (108) go on air this month (September) and feature South African people with a passion for the unusual in its new channel identity and fillers.
Hallmark Channel, which broadcasts award-winning shows including Numb3rs, Cane and NCIS, will showcase 20 South African characters from a whole host of backgrounds but who share a common goal - making the very most of their free time. Hallmark Channel is broadcast on DStv channel 108, Monday to Sunday.
- The premier of the film 'Land Matters' by German filmmaker, Thorsten Schütte, was held in Windhoek on Tuesday evening, bringing to the screen Namibia's land reform process.
- Kenya’s Dada Productions has just made and released its first feature film locally. The trailer can be watched on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUtSw3YGH0I&feature=em
Dada Productions is currently looking to sell and distribute the film "From A Whisper" within the continent and internationally. Dada Productions is also currently in production on a Documentary about Prof. Wangari Maathai and in pre-production for a futuristic short film (partially funded by Goethe Institut and Focus Features) and also in pre-production on a Pan African documentary about a boy who travels from tanzania to Cape Town in Search for his Sister.
The suspension order, earlier slammed on the Channels Television by the Federal Government of Nigeria, for airing what the government described as "an unwholesome news item", has been reversed. In the same vein, the federal government has ordered the immediate release of all journalists detained as a result of the false report concerning President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
Announcing the withdrawal of the suspension order in his office in Abuja, on behalf of the government, the director general, NBC, Engr. Yomi Bolarinwa, told journalists that lifting the suspension order by the government became necessary in view of the apology tendered by Channels, having acknowledged its mistake. Bolarinwa also said that the reversal of government's earlier position on the issue, is in line with certain provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.
Channels Television, one of the leading television broadcast stations in the country, had on September 16, 2008, at 2.00pm, broadcast that President Yar'Adua was contemplating resigning as president of Nigeria on account of his alleged failing health, a development the government considered capable of leading to a breakdown of law and order in the country.
Bolarinwa said that in reaction to this, "The National Broadcasting Commission on Wednesday 17th September, 2008, suspended the operational broadcast licence of Channels Television in all locations in Nigeria, due to the station's breach of the provisions of the National Broadcasting Commission Act No. 38 of 1992 (as amended) and the Nigeria Broadcast Code."
He, however, explained that following the suspension order, the commission, as the regulatory authority of the nation's broadcasting industry, continued its investigations into the immediate and remote causes of the breach, adding that the commission was satisfied with its findings. The commission advised Channels to be cautious and crosscheck its information in future, before airing it as news, particularly on issues of this magnitude.
Speaking further, Bolarinwa stated, "Consequently, the National Broadcasting Commission, in consonance with the provision of paragraph 220.127.116.11 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and without prejudice to the duties of security services to carry out their ongoing investigations to a logical conclusion, hereby lifts the suspension order and directs Channels Television to put in place effective mechanism to confirm news items and sources before broadcast.
"The National Broadcasting Commission is also working with security agencies to ensure that all journalists detained in connection with the false report about the president are released.
"Channels Television caused to be broadcast, an unwholesome news item which could have been detrimental to national interest and lead or likely to lead to a breakdown of law and order in the country, contrary to the provisions of the National Broadcasting Commission Act and Nigeria Broadcasting Code, for which Channels Television has accepted responsibility and tendered an apology." Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail the closure on Wednesday of Channels TV, with opposition political parties and civil society groups condemning government's action.
Speaking at a protest against the closure, the convener of United Action For Democracy, Abiodun Aremu, condemned as barbaric the closure of the TV station, adding that the arrest and detention of four staff members of the station and suspension of the operational licence of the station was illegal and unlawful and called for its immediate restoration. " Government must also tender an unreserved apology to the TV station and the public for this crude military -like assault," he said.
The general secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Segun Sango, said the president should not have closed the station, but react to the issue. He said the closure of the station was not an attack on the media, but on Nigeria, warning of dire consequences if the operating licence of the TV station was not restored.
"This protest is a signal to the government to reverse its decision, as the NLC, TUC and other groups will stage a mass demonstration against this brutal encroachment on Channels' democratic rights and citizens' liberties if the operational licence of the TV station is not restored," Sango warned. He added that it was time for the government, which promised to follow the rule of law, to prove so.
Lagos State chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, Prince Obi, said the government has not demonstrated respect for the rule of law by the closure of the TV station. Also reacting to the closure of the TV station, the Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress (AC) said the clampdown on Channels was dictatorial and capable of painting the image of President Yar'Adua black.
Leadership (Abuja) 22 September 2008
The Management of Africa Independent Television (AIT) has indicated its interest to acquire the official broadcast rights for the West African Football Union (WAFU) Under-20 championship, which holds in Nigeria from November 30 through December 14.
Chairman of PAMODZI Sports Marketers, official marketers of WAFU, Mike Itemuagbor confirmed that the chairman of DAAR Communications, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has held preliminary talks with his organisation in this respect.
"We have begun negotiations with Chief Dokpesi, chairman of DAAR Communications, but presently we are looking at the logistics, said Itemuagbor. "I am hopeful we can arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement but so far, given what AIT has put on the table, I think they are serious."
AIT recently acquired the rights for all matches involving Nigeria's national teams and is presently in the process of floating a sports cable station. "In terms of facilities and the personnel, I think AIT is competent enough to give us a hitch-free coverage that will be enjoyed by the entire continent and indeed the world," said Itemuagbor, a member of CAF's Marketing Committee.
This Day (Lagos) 24 September 2008
Confusion over the revoking of a licence in Uganda held by Multichoice reveals that the company was laying the ground for offering triple play but has clear now thought better of that idea.
The confusion followed last week's advert by the Uganda Communications Commission that it had revoked licenses of Multi Choice Uganda Ltd and Yo Uganda Ltd and the two would therefore not legally provide communication services in Uganda. "As per its role of regulating the provision of communication services in Uganda, an operator's license may be suspended or revoked as a result of serious and repeated breach of the license," UCC said in its advert in the major dailies.
However, in a rejoinder MultiChoice Uganda General Manager Charles Hamya told Daily Monitor the revocation was for a Public Service Provider (PSP) license issued five years ago when the company planned to venture into telecommunications services in particular the Internet (data) business.
"This is to confirm to you that indeed we are aware of the revocation of this license, however this development does not in anyway and will not affect our core business of providing subscriber management services to Pay TV options in particular the DStv service," he said.
The Monitor (Kampala) 26 September 2008
The SABC is challenging South African businesses to show their commitment to good corporate governance by renewing their business TV licences before the end of September 2008. The SABC's Audience Services Division (ASD), which is responsible for licence fee collection and the management of the TV licence system, says time is running out for businesses to meet their obligations - and the deadline.
“TV licence fee income currently constitutes 18% of the SABC's annual operating revenue,” says City Seokane, General Manager: Compliance, Audience Services Division of the SABC. “This revenue goes towards financing the SABC's public service obligations, which include broadcasting in South Africa's eleven official languages, and providing locally produced TV and radio programming that caters for the informational, cultural, religious and entertainment needs of South Africa's diverse society.
“Failure of the business community to comply with the regulations that govern the payment of TV licences will prevent the optimisation of funding for public broadcasting and handicap the SABC in the fulfilment of its broadcasting mandate. “Simply, we cannot accept excuses anymore. Businesses must pay their licence fees,” says Seokane.
The collection of TV licence fees is governed by the Broadcasting Act, no 4 of 1999, as amended, and the Television Licence Regulations in terms of the Act. The Broadcasting Act stipulates that any person or business entity possessing or using a television set must have a valid (paid-up) licence for that set. Irrespective of whether a TV set is used to view SABC TV, other broadcasters' television services or only videos and/or DVD's, a valid licence is required. In fact, the licence remains payable even if a TV set is not used at all.
Seokane says that in terms of the TV licence regulations, business entities are obliged to pay a fee for each television set on their business premises.
“Business entities also include members in the hospitality industry such as hotels, B&B's, lodges and guesthouses,” says Seokane. “Once a year, such businesses need to provide the SABC with an audited statement indicating the number of TV sets and the period for which these sets have been in their possession.
“Businesses with more than 10 television sets may qualify for a discount, which is calculated on a sliding scale depending on the number of sets and is subject to certain conditions,” he says.
The annual business licence fee payable per TV set is R225.00. The SABC's Business Accounts Department may be contacted on (011) 330 9702 for more information on the discount system.
“Non-compliance with any aspect of television licence legislation may result in penalties being incurred on an account as well as in other legal sanctions,” says Seokane.
The SABC's new-look TV Licence Inspectorate, launched last year, is tasked with assisting and educating the general public and businesses to comply with the law by paying their annual TV licences.
Clearly identifiable and uniformed TV Licence Inspectors conduct door-to-door visits on an ongoing basis. The inspectors can update information and facilitate licence payments but they may not accept any form of payment. The actual payment of the TV licence needs to be made via one of the many payment options available, including an easy online option at http://www.tvlic.co.za.
Anyone found in possession of a television set without a valid licence by a visiting inspector will be liable for payment of the prescribed annual licence fee plus a penalty of double the licence fee.
- e.tv, South Africa's first and only independent free-to-air television channel, celebrates ten years on air on 1 October. Over the past decade, e.tv has established itself against the odds to become a household name and a key player in the South African broadcasting industry.
- Francophone Pay TV channel Canal Plus has lowered its bouquet prices in Gabon. As part of its licence agreement with regulator CNC, it has agreed to provide a low-cost bouquet (Canalsat Horizons) for less than FCFA5,000 a month. Currently prices are around FCFA15,000 a month. However, premium content channels will cost FCFA30,000 with a special low cost bouquet for FCFA20,000.
- momentum is a new four-minute programme broadcast monthly on euronews sponsored by Fortis. It explores the key moments in the life of companies going through times of internal and external instability. From the car engineering to cycling to children’s toys, momentum follows the journey of successful and adaptable businesses, pursuing a policy of continuous innovation in order to thrive.
The Kano State government has called on the management of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) to establish a network center in the state. The state's Commissioner for Projects, Monitoring and Evaluation, Alhaji Ibrahim Garba made the appeal when he paid a courtesy call on the Director-General of the NTA, Malam Usman Magawata.
In a statement sent to Daily Trust in Kano, the commissioner stated that Kano State deserved a network center in view of its huge population and the commercial status in the West African sub-region. Alhaji Garba pointed out that information is power and development without which no meaningful progress in all facets of human life is achievable. He opined that had there been accurate dissemination of information in the country, the Niger Delta crisis would have been averted. Alhaji Ibrahim Garba therefore appealed to the management of the NTA to consider this request so that people would be well-informed about government's policies and programmes.
Responding, the NTA Director-General, Malam Usman Magawata described the request for a network center in the state as timely and accurate considering the strategic importance of Kano State. Malam Usman Magawata stated that the provision would be made for the less costly live transmission of signals from Kano to the NTA headquarters as a temporary measure as Niger State is about to start enjoying. The Directorate-General commended the state government for its support and assistance to NTA Kano, especially the recent construction of a N9.7 million mini-studio at the station's sub-station at Gunduwawa. Also inspecting the supply of furniture and electronics to the three blocks of 24 3-bedroom houses at Gwarimpa Housing Estate, Abuja, Alhaji Ibrahim Garba expressed satisfaction over the contractor's compliance with his earlier directive to replace the sub-standard pieces of furniture. The commissioner urged the state ministry of works and housing to connect the houses with electricity as well as provide borehole and a generating set to make them habitable.
Daily Trust (Abuja) 29 September 2008
Distressed by recent customer complaints, Gateway Television has said it is undertaking a chain of measures to bring to table a convenient billing system that will save its subscribers from meeting compulsory arrears.
GTV's current billing system allows consumers of its pay TV service, to watch their progammes even after their bills have run out. The payment system was never clearly communicated to some of the company's subscribers leading to confusion and displeasure among them.
Rhys Torrington, the Commercial Director of GTV told the Daily Monitor in an interview on Tuesday, that he was equally displeased that their company had drawn dissatisfaction from many of its Ugandan customers. He also acknowledged that their customers' wretchedness is a result of improper communication from GTV.
The Monitor (Kampala) 18 September 2008
Recently the Namibian Film Commission (NFC) launched Film Location Namibia, a public-private sector partnership (PPP) programme formed out of an alliance between the German Development Service, DED and four private sector business entities. The four private sector partners, who with NFC and DED have jointly developed this exciting initiative, set to attract filmmakers from all over the world to Namibia, are Pilots Paradise Video Productions, Namib Films and LemonReel.com and SMEs Compete.
Speaking at the 1st African Broadcast and Film Conference in Nairobi last week, the Nation’s Ian Fernandes pointed out that two issues were holding back the development of broadcast TV in Kenya and elsewhere. It is extremely expensive to produce TV commercials: a 30 second spot costs one eighth of the cost of a full page ad in a newspaper.
Toyin Subair of HiTV pointed out that many Nigerian companies get their commercials made outside of Africa. (One of the leading Nigerian-owned telco operators flew in Saatchi and Saatchi to get its made.) These skills will not grow unless broadcasters put more work into an independent sector rather than keeping it all in-house.
Also Kenya has a particular problem in that a great deal of buying decisions are focused in one group of commonly-owned ad agencies:”They demand as much as 30-40% of the advertising rates charged. There is a lack of collaboration amongst broadcasters to put a stop to this.”
Steadman’s Joe Otin told the conference that Africa constituted only 1.4% of global advertising revenues but that it was growing much faster than elsewhere with a regional growth of 19.6% last year. He pointed out the existence of a “two-track” Africa: a fast growth group of countries and 25 countries that are very poor and unstable. East Africa grew by 30% last year and 38% the year before. (Figures are based on rate card and do not take account of discounting.)
Chris Kirubi, CEO, Capital Radio pointed out the dangers of fragmentation:” The more stations, the less advertising to run a station.”
Ian Fernandes was only the first amongst several speakers and contributors to call for better research to give advertisers good information about what programmes are being watched:”Most spots are concentrated around news programmes….you cannot (currently) justify higher rates around local content.” There is need for the equivalent of the UK’s BARB or RAJAR audience tracking systems to provide up-to-the-minute market intelligence. So have pity on Kije Mugisha from Rwanda TV whose country has no serial audience research work of any kind but backed the need for it.
Specialised telecoms and media investment and advisory company Delta Partners has opened an office in South Africa and is actively looking for investment opportunities in the African media sector. The company typically will invest around US$8-15 million for a minority or majority position and will look to exit after 4-5 years, although its maximum investment period is seven years.
According to Managing Partner Kristoff Puelinckz, the company is actively looking for more media opportunities. It currently has two investments, one in an outdoor advertising agency with a presence in Morocco and Egypt and the other in a satellite TV operation in North Africa with the Berlusconi Group as co-investors. It is currently assessing opportunities in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Puelinckz says it opened an office in South Africa "to be closer to both financial and investment opportunities." It has a fund of US$80 million and expects to set up a second fund shortly.
Media is a smaller part of its focus than telecoms but it expects to invest about 20-30% of its funds in media-related businesses. But as Puelinckz observes "there's a lot of covergence." So what's it looking for? "We want companies with a track record, strong management, cash flow and a presence in more than 2-3 countries." On its advisory side it can provide strong support through a network of over 100 people.
- Kagiso Media announced its results for the year ended 30 June 2008, with a revenue increase of 14% to R841.6 million (2007: R738.3 million) and operating profit showing an increase of 13% to R267.6 million (2007: R236.3 million). Headline earnings rose by 23% to R159.6 million (2007: R130.1 million) and headline earnings per share of 119.7 cents reflected an improvement of 22% (2007: 97.9 cents). The group maintained its strong cash generation trend, reporting cash from operations of R270.5 million.
Lagos President of the West African Bar Association, Mr. Femi Falana, and several other activists, at the weekend disclosed that they would sue the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), over the three-day closure of Channels Television.
The activists explained that in as much as section 39 of the 1999 Constitution gives right to the press to disseminate information, the same constitution gives Nigerians right to receive information, which they were denied for three days.
Falana, who spoke at the Annual General Meeting of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos, said that it is necessary to challenge the closure to send a strong message to the Federal Government that in a democratic dispensation, excesses will not be tolerated.He warned that if President Yar'Adua can back the closure of an independent television station only days after he returned from a medical check-up in Saudi Arabia, he "might close down the whole country when he is hale and hearty". "If Yar'Adua becomes hale and hearty, he will declare a full blown war on the media and the Niger Delta. He will close down the whole country," Falana said.
Leadership (Abuja) 23 September 2008
There has been growing concern over the operations of the country's mandated supervisory agency in the communication industry, the National Communication Authority (NCA), over irregularities characterising the operations of the growing radio industry in Ghana.
The irregularities include the rebroadcast of programmes of other radio stations from the nation's capital, Accra, by radio stations in the various regions, including the Eastern Region, with the confusion of radio station signals clashing, as well as weak monitoring and supervision of operators in the radio sector.
In the Western Region, over 15 radio stations are in existence, while the Ashanti Region is registered with over 20. The situation has become a source of worry and concern to some of the operators in the industry.
Consequently, Western Salem Communication (WSC), operators of KYZZ 89.7 FM, one of the radio stations in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis, with support from the Business Sector Advocacy (BUSAC), is leading the campaign for a clean radio industry.
It has decided to embark on advocacy work, to get the attention of the NCA, and all stakeholder institutions in the trade, to take appropriate measures and actions to properly regulate the activities of the industry, which is fast becoming the largest employment creating sector in the country.
To this end, the station on Thursday, engaged some of the stakeholders on a radio programme, to seek clarification on how the industry could be streamlined to grow effectively.
To begin with, the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, Mr. Gerald Ankrah, was called via phone on to the programme dubbed, "Mantem Police," hosted by Kwame Malcolm, to react to issues relating to some of these irregularities confronting the industry.
In his response, Ankrah noted that it was important for members of the association, to simply lodge formal complaints with the authorities, instead of engaging them in a blame game.
He, therefore, called on the public to provide evidence on some of the stations that were involved in these irregularities, so that the association could act accordingly.
The Executive Director of the Center for Media Analysis (CMA), Dr. Messau Mawugbey, on his part, supported the idea of streamlining the activities of the industry. According to Mawugbey, the industry was still too young to be out of control, as he hinted that the sector would become one of the most vibrant institutions in the country very soon.
He added that the industry would witness what he described as "Consolidated Broadcasting Platform (CBP), a system he indicated would compel many other radio stations in the country, to either fold up or be consumed, by the bigger ones. He pointed out that in America, community radio stations, which were in effect operationally proficient, though small in character, could not bear the heat of competition. Out of that, all marginalised ones were phased out of the system by the CBP.
Dr. Mawugbe asserted that the essence of regulating the industry was to provide listeners with quality programmes, which to him, was lacking in our current situation. Politics and sensational stories, he noted, were the dominating issues on the airwaves in Ghana, indicating that the sector was the sole responsibility of the NCA, to supervise and streamline. Three radio station managers, who were called into the programme, also poured their frustrations on air.
In the view of Kwesi Essel, General Manager of Good News FM, a Takoradi- based radio station, radio ideally should have been a community business, but there were others whose transmission travelled beyond their boundaries, as demarcated by the NCA, and yet nothing happens to them. While acknowledging this as a challenge, he noted that since it could not be controlled, advertisers who spend much of their money for better outcome on the airwaves also look out for stations had a wider coverage.
Samuel Gordon Etroo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Space FM in Tarkwa, a mining area in the Western Region, on his part, told the host of the programme, Malcolm said that because the NCA was not performing its core function, as the statutory supervisory institution in the sector, many of the radio stations were engaging in dubious activities, to the detriment of others.
He held that in Tarkwa for instance, where Space FM is operating, a university campus-base radio station, which had an experimental license, was busily competing with them commercially, and no regulatory body was challenging the act. When asked by the host of the programme, if formal complaints were lodged for actions to be taken, Etroo held that many petitions written to the appropriate authorities had hit the rocks.
While the CEO of Space FM held this view, Mr. Samuel Agyenim Boateng, Marketing Manger of Spark FM, located in Dunkwa in the Central Region, noted that though all radio stations with licenses were supposed to operate within their range, those in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, were infiltrating the Central Region, and as a result, causing great harm to their businesses.
This, he bemoaned, was because advertisers were dealing with them for a wider coverage, though illegal, the situation in the end was affecting their business.
Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra) 18 September 2008
- National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has said it is investigating whether phone-in competitions on TV stations are genuine. Concerns have been expressed by viewers about rip-off charges on purported live TV phone-in competitions on some national television stations. Some viewers are of the view that premium rated calls on TV competitions are being used to generate revenue from the public.
- Participants at a National Media Commission (NMC) meeting on language broadcasting have condemned the use of proverbs in news items as they tend to breach journalistic tenets and could cause confusion in the run-up to the December general election.While affirming the importance of using local languages to reach the generality of Ghanaians not literate in the English Language, participants were, however, worried about the abusive use of proverbs thus rendering a slanted version of what is supposed to be a factual rendition of events.They appealed to owners of radio stations to stop their news readers from use of proverbs that might provoke people to cause mayhem.
The steady, almost stealthy convergence of new and old media was one of the most striking themes from last week’s 1st African Broadcast and Film Conference. Two of the speakers – GBC’s Kofi Bucknor and Capital Radio’s Chris Kirubi – both encouraged participants to join them on Facebook. Google’s Joe Mucheru pointed out that Facebook was the seventh most visited site in Kenya and Angola and the fifth in Egypt. Not only that but globally a staggering 13 hours of video were being uploaded every hour to You Tube.
Kenya’s media planner par excellence Lenny Nganga of Saracen Media said:”Mobile is the next frontier. There are 14 million handsets in Kenya against 3.5 million TV sets. There is going to be a blurring lines between new and old media”. He also pressed media owners to invest early in new technologies. GBC’s Kofi Bucknor pointed out that mobile companies have their own medium and could produce their own TV channels.”
He explained how he has TV on his own mobile:”On my way from the airport, I changed to the TV channels of Kenya without asking anyone’s permission. My phone cost US$124 by DHL from China and by the time I got to use it, the price had dropped to US$99. Rancard Solutions Kofi Dadzie pointed out that currently between 1-3% of all mobile customers have data-enabled handsets.
Michael Hallinan of MediaMerx and Asif Sheik of A24 Media both described different products that will enable broadcasters and content owners to distribute and buy content much more easily. These low-cost content transfer systems have enormous advantages for Africa which cannot support the IPR-lawyer heavy infrastructure of the developed world.
A couple of broadcasters gave examples of how digital TV was driving new income streams. GBC’s Kofi Bucknor cited Zigg’s Useless Film, made by a Senegalese friend of his, that earned US$250,000 on a digital TV channel. Rwanda TV’s Kije Mugisha spoke of the country’s cultural festival FESPAD that made US$1.2 million from being run on Jump TV.
Pierre van der Hoven of Southern Africa Direct exemplified how Africa will go out into the world with his description of the TV channel it runs focused on tourism in the region. It airs on Sky in the UK and is seen by 20,000 people on a daily basis. It is run alongside a website that provides the back-up and paying information. Incidentally, Nigeria’s NTA, HiTV and Daarsat all have channels on Sky.
IP-TV was explained by WICE Net’s Praveen Sadalage told participants that incumbent telcos with DSL over fixed line networks could add US$15-25 a month in terms of revenue. The company, which provides both the technology and the content, is working with Ghana Telecom. It has 400,000 fixed lines of which 70% are residential. It is projecting 10,000 subs in 2 years and will aunching this month. The average ARPU is likely to be US$20.
It was the Nation’s Fernandes who pointed the consequence of all this African convergence:” Think multi-media. Journalists need to be multi-skilled. There needs to be newsroom convergence and citizen journalism. Offer solutions, not just information”.
“You can have all the digital transition strategies in the world but it won’t happen unless you have the money… There is a need to get all consumer’s desired functions (like DVD play back, etc) into a single box… At street level no-one has any awareness of the digital transition”. This was the Head of Kenya’s Digital Broadcast Committee sober assessment of the challenges facing Africa as it digitalises, as he spoke to the 1st African Broadcast and Film Conference in Nairobi last week.
Few African countries will have the kind of money the South African Government has made available to soften the costs of the transition. Altech UEC’s Theuns Tait told the conference that the Government was finding US$300 million to provide a 70% subsidy for 5 million households. The digital transmission trials are starting in November 2008. He stressed the need for a single design authority so that maximum savings could be made on set-top box costs. In response to a question from the floor, he said that an MPEG4 STB with a return path currently costs US$60 but this might fall to US$50 with volume sales. Nation TV’s Technical Manager Kiarie Nderitu pointed out the economic sense for moving to MPEG4:”The shift from MPEG2 to MPEG4, latter will save bandwidth”.
Two cost saving strategies emerged in relation to digitalisation. Firstly, the Government needed to remove import tax from all of the equipment associated with this process. It is worth pointing out that a similar removal of import taxes was a vital ingredient in attracting investment into the mobile phone sector.
The second cost-saving strategy is the creation of a trusted, single signal carrier (not as part of the incumbent TV station) so that companies do not each have to build their own coverage networks. As Ian Fernandes of the Nation said:” Having a single signal distributor will help bring down the costs of going into new territories”. Sadler Kamudyawira, Investment Manager, South African Media Development Fund spotlighted the case of three radio stations in Botswana who have agreed to share transmission infrastructure for similar cost-saving reasons unrelated to digitalisation.
In the opening ceremony, PS Bitange Ndemo highlighted the fact that:”By the time of next year’s conference, Kenya will have dealt with issues of (fibre) infrastructure. There will be cheap enough broadband for Kenyans to watch films and television programmes”. K24’s David Kimotho picked up the point in a slightly different way but again one that points to cost savings:” With fibre optic cable, you will be able to send signals to rebroadcasting stations without needing to buy expensive microwave links. Broadcasters will be able to locate servers locally”. Scopus Video is already testing a live link over fibre from Kenya’s Parliament to KBC. Nation TV is also doing the same using KDN for live traffic feeds.
The private sector seems to be ahead of the public policy discussions: Kenya company Oxygen is already offering DTT services. Hovering in the background is the next big step up for broadcasters: High Definition (HD). Al Jazeera’s Phil Lawrie’s comments show that even large companies are hesitating before committing:”Our production output is 100% HD. The big issue is when to go HD with transmission. Does news demand HD?”
Daniel Obam bought everyone back down to earth by pointing out that 46% of Kenya’s TVs are black and white and that the real need was to develop wider electricity supply or batteries for STBs.
- Radwin (www.radwin.com), a provider of wireless broadband solutions, announced that Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has deployed its systems in eight national parks. KWS is in charge of Kenya's national parks, and has deployed Radwin's Multiple point-to-point (MPtP) systems to connect its headquarters in Nairobi to a number of parks. UUNET Kenya and Adwest were in charge of project deployment.
- Professional broadcast technology supplier Visual Impact, which has offices in the UK, Europe and South Africa, has purchased a Baselight HD colour grading system from FilmLight for use at its Visuals HDHUB post production facility in Cape Town. A first in South Africa, the Baselight will be used primarily to perform grading and finishing for high-end documentaries and feature films. Truelight will enable the company to better assist its clients in managing their production workflow—especially those who have gone to high-end digital acquisition.
- Anant Singh, Chairman of Cape Town Film Studios has announced the management team that will drive operations of the eagerly anticipated film studios. Nico Dekker, the former head and CEO of Table Mountain Motion Picture Studios, has been appointed CEO of Cape Town Film Studios and will be assisted by experienced general manager and deputy, Rashay Magan.
- Ponhele ya France of Namibia’s NBC was given his marching orders on Monday after being called in by the Minister of Information Joel Kaapanda.
Artists Television Access: San Francisco
2-4 October 2008
Artists’ Television Access celebrates independent and underground film and video with 3 nights of subversive and often surreal beauty, spotlighting the work of many local, national and international underground film and video makers.
This Thursday, October 2, the festival opens with Craig Baldwin’s latest collage-narrative Mock Up On Mu, based on the bizarre story of rocket-scientist Jack Parsons and his tangled involvement with Scientology founder L.Ron Hubbard and bohemian muse Marjorie Cameron. Don’t miss the intro act by Mu-vie star, Stoney Burke as John McTaint (think McCain).
On Friday and Saturday, October 3rd and 4th, the festival will showcase 20 short films that run the cinematic gamut – from former SF rocker Jibz Cameron’s mercurial “The Quiet Storm” and the controversial “Visions of Wasted Time,” by Neil Ira Needleman, to the gorgeous flicker of Paul Clipson’s “Sphinx on the Seine” and Telemach Wiesinger’s “3x1.” Both programs are very different, so choose wisely or come to both.
In addition to the screenings, Shalo P.’s troubled video weather patterns and Sam Manera’s live ode to high-voltage photography will be displayed as installations throughout the gallery during the festival. Plus, the ATA Window will feature an international selection of experimental film artists during the month of October.
ATA is at 992 Valencia at 21st Street. Doors open at 7:30pm every night. Screenings start at 8pm. Tickets are $10. Limited amount available online.
ATA Film & Video Festival
992 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Angola: Luanda Film Festival
November 22-29, 2008
The event is intended to stimulate cultural cooperation, particularly in the field of cinema, between local and foreign producers and directors and re-launch the system of production and distribution of cinema in the country. Addressing the launch ceremony, Miguel Hurst said that Angolan Government intends to award prizes to films screened in Angola, both local and foreign, seeking to increment the production of movies in the country. With the expected participation of local and foreign movies, the festival will comprise competitive, non-competitive categories and parallel activities.
African Movie Channel calls for input from SA filmmakers
Ever considered watching African movies at home on your PC for a fairly reasonable rate? Interested in another source of distribution for your African movie? Well, it is all possible and the UK-based African Movie Channel (AMC) is offering this service right now.
Hundreds of Nollywood and other African movies are now just a mouse-click away, at www.africanmoviechannel.tv, for viewers to watch on their PC and TV whenever they like. Viewers can enjoy the fine works of some of Africa's best producers and directors - Tunde Kelani, Charles Novia, Fred Amata, Chico Ejiro, Paul Igwe, and many more...
Nollywood as we know is the enormously popular Nigerian film industry, and the third largest film industry in the world, behind Hollywood and India's Bollywood. “We are always on the lookout for good quality content for all over Africa,” says AMC’s Yinka Mayungbo.
“We have a revenue-share arrangement with rights-owners. We also license African content from all over Africa (movies, TV series, talk shows, reality TV, documentaries, etc) for our broadcast clients in the UK and the USA. This is totally separate from the use of such content by the African Movie Channel. Once we have assessed and approved such content, and if the rights owners are interested, we deliberate on what license fee and terms would apply.”
AMC provides best picture quality for Nollywood films on the internet, with every selection available to enjoy at excellent full-screen DVD quality. All movies are sourced direct from the original master versions, thus, says Mayungbo, guaranteeing audio and visual quality, exceeding what consumers currently get with regular Video CD's or from anywhere online.
The channel is available on-demand 24/7 anywhere in the world, with every movie selection available to fast-forward, rewind, and pause, just like a DVD. All that is required is an internet connection together with a laptop or PC. Registration is free and no subscription is required, and it is totally safe and legal. A free film is available to watch upon completion of a very brief 30 second registration process.
Viewers simply buy credits, and choose the movie to watch from the large selection available, and start watching instantly. A readily accessible account enables each viewer to see what movies he/she has watched and how many credits are left at any point in time. The credits do not expire, and you can sign into their account at any time, from anywhere, on any computer.
The channel is refreshed weekly with a mix of the best new and recent Nollywood releases and classics, and the finest movies from other African motion picture houses. All content are in English, or sub-titled in English.
AMC continues to sign content agreements with various partners, and is also involved in movie distribution arrangements with top African movie rights-owners and film production houses.
Call for Entries to the Wild Talk Africa Film Festival
The call for Roscar entries is now open. The competition is open to all wildlife, travel and cultural productions. Building on the success from last year’s Awards, six new categories have been added. The Festival will run from 19 – 23 April 2009.
The categories are now:
Best Editing - Awarded to the production which displays the most creative editing style.
Best Cinematography - Awarded to the production which displays the most exceptional camerawork.
Best Production with a Limited Budget - Awarded to the best production with a budget of less than R5 000 per minute (approximately $650 or £330 per minute).
Best Children’s Production - Awarded to the best natural history production produced for a children’s audience, aged 12 and under, which stimulates an interest in the natural world.
Best Environmental and Conservation/Campaign Production- Awarded to the best production which contributes to the awareness of environmental and conservation issues facing the natural world. The production must convey a conservation message and/or a ‘Call to Action’.
Best Eco-Tourism, Travel and/or Culture Production - Awarded to the best production which promotes tourism of a place, town or country through the use of cultural aspects and wildlife.
Best Use of Music - Awarded to the production which has the best original music score.
Best Script - Awarded to the production which, through the use of original storytelling, creates a captivating script.
Best Series - Awarded to the best series with a natural history theme.
Best Sound Design - Awarded to the production which, through the creative combination of production mixing, sound editing and post-production mixing, displays an inventive use of sound.
Best Newcomer - Awarded to a first-time producer (or filmmaker) in the natural history filmmaking arena. To qualify as a newcomer, a filmmaker should have only been producing films or documentaries from January 2007 onwards.
Outstanding Achievement for African Wildlife Filmmaker - The production shows the unique relationship between Africa’s people and animals. This category can only be entered by a national of an African country.
ROSCAR Gala Event
The ROSCAR Awards will be awarded to filmmakers at a gala event held during the Festival. The prestigious evening event promises to be a highlight as tribute is paid to filmmakers for the outstanding contributions that they are making in the natural history arena.