Issue no 48 19 February 2009
The two founders of the Africa Channel wanted to “showcase the beauty and promise of Africa” to audiences outside Africa. So they put together a channel that took African material and framed and packaged it in a way that American audiences were used to. It’s not a channel aimed at African diaspora audiences but one aimed squarely at the general viewer. Russell Southwood talks to its President Jacob Arback.
Q: How did the company get started?
We started in January 2003 but my business partner James Makawa who's from Zimbabwe started even earlier.
We wanted to showcase the beauty and promise of Africa to audiences. All people tend to see is the horror and the despair. Because these things have become entrenched in peoples’ perceptions, we wanted to change the images in order to create the full palette. We wanted to be able to tell the good as well as the difficult stuff. We also wanted to take the fear away and let people have a little fun with Africa. We wanted Africans to be able to speak in their own voices to tell their stories to Americans (and others) in their own living rooms.
We also knew that there was tremendous directing, producing, writing and acting talent that we could get started with. We knew we could frame and package it at a pace and rhythm that American audiences were used to.
Q: Who do you see as the audience for the channel? Is it an African diaspora audience?
In the past, I worked on Arab stations wanting to come to the USA. So we thought about Africans wanting to see the channel. But early on it was clear that everyone wanted to see it. So we get general audiences and we’re a general entertainment network with talent searches, lifestyle programmes, films, soaps and everything you’d expect on that type of channel.
So we see our audience in three major segments: the type of people who watch the Discovery and National Geographic channels, African-Americans and Africans resident in the USA.
There are 37 million African-Americans but they are a very diverse group and their heritage is not just defined by slavery. They have a rich and wonderful history. There are 5-10 million Africans resident in America and they are dying to see content displayed with respect and integrity.
We are also on BSkyB in the UK.
In the USA, all the major cable companies liked it and there was not much competition. (Nigeria’s) AIT was here for a while and there’s the Somali Network. In New York, we can be found between a travel channel and Animal Planet and that’s how we like to see it. We’re attracting a wide range of people. We’re not here to compete with BET. We’re the African in African-American.
We’re in 12 million households in the USA, UK and Caribbean. Three million of those households are in the USA and that will rise to 4-5 million by mid-year. When satellite services came to the USA, we saw a dramatic increase in subscribers and we’re getting a tremendous response from US regional cities we’re landing in.
Q: What’s the business model?
We’re bundled on a digital tier at no extra charge, except for the US$4-5 to get digital. The model is advertising and licence fee supported. The cable companies pay for the programming and we sell advertising.
So one example is if the Government of Rwanda wants to rebrand the country. The Ministry of Tourism may want to wrap that message around lifestyle content and we’re talking to them about that in the long-term.
Q: When will you come into profit?
Typically cable channels take 5-7 years before breaking even.
Q: Will you sell the channel or content from it back into the continent?
Our strategy which we’ve already started is to develop African production capacity. 95% of what we show is African-produced and directed. We don’t take crews and fly in and in the mid to long-term we’ll commission with local crews. We run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we need high quality material with good quality sound. Terrific programming is already being produced but we just need more of it. We hope to raise the quality threshold but keep the popular attitude.
Soap operas are enormous for us and we’ve bought Generations and Isidingo from SABC. Jacob’s Cross is a dramatic series with a storyline that splits between Nigeria and South Africa and it has been a huge hit here. People love the music and we produce our own music blocks using local DJs. We’ve shown Big Brother Africa which went to two different countries with contestants from 12 different tribes. It’s electrifying when you see it in the West.
HD is the future of the Africa Channel and we’re going to be ahead of the wave. We would hope that this will accelerate more.
But to answer your question, yes we would like to come back into the continent some day…however, there are rights issues. We want to work with the programming suppliers, not against them. We’re currently 80% distributed content and 20% licensed and we’d like that to be 50:50 in a year’s time and 80% HD in two years time. There’s never been so much African content outside the continent in one place.
Q: Who are your shareholders?
We are individually and privately held. The shareholders include Ambassador Andrew Young and Congolese NBA player Dikembe Mutambo. We produced a documentary on the hospital that he built.
The hardest thing has been to get the four cable giants who control 50% of the market to take the channel. That was a heavy gate but we’re now through it.
Q: How did you convince them?
We went into small towns across America, to their different markets. In each one one we found things like Ladysmith Black Mambazo concerts or performances of the Lion King. There were all these African reference points around them.
In a world of cloned channels, a fresh, authentic story for viewers is very important. We have very loyal viewers now so it’s good for everybody.
Q: What’s the background of the three founders?
Myself I was part of the launch team for DirecTV in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Central Europe. After that, I was President of Business Research International which advised Fortune 500 companies in the international pay television, broadcasting and satellite businesses.
James Makawa worked as a local news reporter and anchor with leading local stations before joining NBC News as a correspondent in New York and Chicago . He returned to South Africa and co-founded the African Barter Company (ABC), in partnership with Grey Advertising Worldwide. ABC was the first barter syndication company ever launched in Africa .
Richard Hammer was part the team that launch the pan-African television network, the African Broadcast Network ( ABN ) in South Africa . He has also spent significant time in Tanzania , serving as a consultant to the East African television station ITV. Domestically, Hammer served as vice president, advertising, promotion and publicity at both WFLD-TV/Chicago and WOR -TV/ New York .
Director and scriptwriter, Michael Raeburn's Triomf has been selected for the FESPACO 2009 - the Pan-African Film and TV Festival official competition. FESPACO, one of Africa's largest film festival established in 1969, showcases African cinema and television.
Triomf was awarded "Best South African Film 2008" at the Durban International Film Festival, and debuted internationally at Cannes Film Festival. It will be released progressively throughout South Africa from 20 February in selected Nu-Metro and independent cinemas.
Five Nigerian films have been selected for screening during the festival which begins on February 28 to March 7, 2009.The films are "Changing Faces" by Farouk Lasaki (Production supported by Nigerian Film Corporation), "Trapped Dream" by Ubaka Joseph Ugochwuku, "Oluronbi" by Buariu Adebayo Ogundimu. Others are "Arugba" and "Life in Slow Motion" both by Tunde Kelani.
Arugba", by Tunde Kelani has been selected for competition in the Features video/TV film category. Meanwhile, the French dubbed version of Faruk Lasaki's "Changing Faces" is expected to debut at the festival.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of FESPACO in Burkina Faso. The theme for FESPACO 2009 is "African Cinema: Tourism and Cultural Heritage". The official competition is exclusively reserved for African and Diaspora Films in the genre of feature films, short films and documentaries.
A Cameroon produced serial, 'My Successor', will soon be projected on CRTV, The Post has learnt. Produced by Premier Films that produced 'Trials of Passion', 'My Successor' is a 52-episode serial hinged on the controversy that surrounds succession in the Cameroonian context.
The production, according to the Director of Premier Films, Godwin Nganah, is aimed at paying tribute to late Victor Pungong, who was the brain behind the film production house.
The first 26 episodes of the serial, which is expected to be delivered to CRTV by March 1, for broadcast to start, has a wide cast made up of a cream of English speaking Cameroonian actors and actresses, many who acted in Trials of Passion.
The serial already described by actors and cinema lovers as the biggest tele-film project Cameroon has ever had, is directed by Asaba Ferdinand alias Penda who has to his credit films like 'Mark of the Absolute' and 'China Wahala'.For cinema lovers, household names such as Abia Maureen, Chinepoh Cosson, Grace Nyoya, Ernestine Tita and Emmanuel Yimbu would feature in the serial.
Meanwhile, in another development, CRTV has opened its doors to Cameroonian film producers. After a meeting recently with Collywood actors, CRTV General Manager promised to collaborate with film producers.
He said CRTV would accept productions and select the best to be projected. Also, scripts would be accepted and the best would be produced. FENAC provided an opening for the present collaboration between Collywood and CRTV.
Lotusfm last week launched its first Tamil-language drama ‘Meesai Aanalum Manaivi'. The Indian community station last year aired the first locally written and produced Hindi-language radio drama ‘Safar'. “We are really excited at the popularity of the new drama series' with our listeners,” says station manager Gail Samuels.
“Radio serials were in their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s and gave thousands of people the opportunity to live other people's lives and experiences vicariously through the characters of their ‘daily dose'. The advent of television on the South African entertainment landscape changed that situation forever and increasingly the format of most radio stations has became talk and music-driven. Lotusfm is committed to growing this entertainment format due to popular demand.”
The six-minute Tamil drama will be aired on In isai Mazhai on Fridays, 7pm - 8pm. Written and directed by ‘Crazy Mohan', the story revolves around Madhu who tells a lie to his employer to get a day's leave. This lie soon leads to another and another that results in many hilarious incidents. The fast-paced drama is interspersed with English dialogues for ease of understanding.
Dramas currently occupy three weekday slots. The second series of ‘A Touch of Karma', a family drama filled with intrigue, scandal and the complexity of human relationships, airs in the morning. ‘Beyond the Himalayas', a send-up of the Indiana Jones-like adventure genre, fills the afternoon slot and nights have ‘Tuckshop', a look at a Phoenix community, who struggle through life's daily battles by the wisdom and support they get from the owner of the local tuckshop.
A new series ‘Paradise Inc.' starts on 16 February, replacing ‘Beyond the Himalayas' and ‘The Other Side', spooky tales of the supernatural, replaces Tuckshop.
“The station's success in this field is a wonderful team effort,” emphasises Raeesa Mohamed, Lotusfm drama producer, who, together with a dedicated team of experienced professionals, including veteran director Caroline Smart and a host of talented writers and actors, is spearheading the station's radio drama efforts.
All is now set for the Nollywood reality TV show, "Real Me Show' to make its debut as the project team said plans has reached it peak for the successful taking-off of the celebrity show.
According to Francis Onwochei, of Frankochei Productions, one of the principal partners behind the project, as soon as the team finalize the key issues relating to architecture, design layouts, pre-production configuration and production-related infrastructural issues with their foreign production partners who are expected into the country soon, the project will kick-off in earnest.
Already, big names in Nollywood such as Zik Zulu Okafor of Zulu Films, Chidi Nwokeabia and Charles Inojie of Macnuel Productions, the initiator of the project, are jointly responsible for the Nigerian leg of production for what promises to be the country's most exciting television show.
Onwochei disclosed that most of Nollywood's top rated actors and actresses have given their written consent to participate in the show which will be shot somewhere on Victoria Island. According to Onwochei, the selection of a Housemate for the show is through an " popularity vote" from Nollywood fans. Only celebrities that garner the highest votes will receive the red carpet welcome into the house.
Eight males and eight females are expected to be voted into the 21-day showstopper and every celebrity housemate will be entitled to a minimum of N2million with the ultimate prize being N10million plus a brand new SUV. Voters will also automatically qualify for draws, which will make many viewers and voters winners of mouth-watering prizes.
The Real Me Show, he said, promises to be an explosive television reality programme, which will present Nigeria's finest and best actors in their true colours. The Housemates will engage in series of activities in and outside the house in a bid to unravel their real personae.
Viewers will then vote in and / or vote out their preferred or non-preferred celebrity Housemates via text messages. Onwochei said, apart from being aimed at unraveling the real personae behind celebrated Nollywood stars, the project is meant to establish a connection between the stars and the multitude of fans in a refreshingly new way.
"Celebrity Housemates are assured of a very decent show. We shall not encourage nudity. So, rest assured, no one will be captured in the bathroom nor will the participant be made to expose any indecent manner to the viewing public. Besides, we shall abide strictly by the relevant broadcast codes applicable in Nigeria. Nothing shall be done to denigrate our stars." Onwochei assured.
Celebrity housemates, he said, will seize the moment to showcase their true role-model values through the robust Nigeria-edifying platforms that will be generated by the show. The entertainment quotient will equally be fever pitch from day one to the 21st and last day when the ultimate winner as voted by the viewers will emerge.
"It will put in perspective the role-model values of the respective stars and challenge relevant government and corporate organizations to positively tap into these platforms for their various communication programmes."
Onwochei observes that the Real Me Show platform provides a unique opportunity for many victories for Nollywood as an industry, the celebrity housemates, millions of viewers in Nigeria and beyond and the project sponsors who will be announced in due course. "Nigerians and indeed, Africans should hold their breath as the Real Me Show debuts in the second quarter of 2009"
Vanguard 7th February 2009
- Godwin Mawuru, Studio 263 executive producer said he was taken aback when Zimbabwe’s NACZ officials asked him to submit the footage on the eve of the annual awards. Mawuru said he wondered what criterion was used to nominate Studio 263 "as they usually nominate using submitted footage." But Nicholas Moyo, the NACZ spokesperson defended the nomination of Studio 263 at the last minute saying the nominees do not necessarily need to submit their names for the event. "We have monitors who work throughout the year in the arts industry and they can tell us which production deserves to be nominated," Moyo said.
- L-Shape Production, Cape Town is currently in post production with the short film 'Ngoma' The project was shot in Kliptown. Ngoma is about a traditional healer turned teacher who, after engaging in the ancestral calling of serving supernatural powers, feels a need for personal triumph. It unravels the hard hitting realities facing the world of ukuthwasa (traditional healer initiation) and gives exposition of corruption and abuse of power by this man on his student traditional healers. The inflicted pain and jealousy among his students that lead to death of one of them, brings upon a horrendously experience that changes his life forever.
- The feature-length documentary "China is still far away," by Algerian director Malek Bensmail, has been selected for the official competition of the international documentary film festival "Cinéma du Réel," to be held in Paris from 5 to 15 March, the Algerian director said. The feature-length documentary is also due to be part of the official competition at the 21st Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO).
- South Africa’s eNews Channel launches a new political debate show this week entitled "The Big Debate". In a unique "Town Hall Meeting" format, the eNews Channel will be travelling across South Africa, to talk about corruption, leadership, black economic empowerment, media freedom, service delivery and other hot topics
In a bid to provide young creative talent with a platform and a voice, pan-African music channel MTV base has set aside airtime to showcase the creativity of up and coming South African designers and filmmakers.
Starting February 2009, MTV base (DStv Channel 322) will broadcast a series of stunning animated sequences created by 3rd year students from the University of Pretoria, following a collaboration with international design consortium, Design Is A Good Idea (DIAGI). Together, MTV base and DIAGI challenged students at the University of Pretoria’s Information Design department to produce short animated sequences or ‘art breaks’ with MTV base as the core theme.
Under the watchful eye of Nicci DuToit (DIAGI’s local design officer) 70 students were briefed to produce a 15-60 second sequence. Given just 2 weeks to conceptualize, design, storyboard and animate their project, they set about creating their works with the strict instruction that all music and visual elements needed to be totally original. After the initial phase, fourteen students were selected to spend a further 2 weeks at the DIAGI studios in Johannesburg to add finishing touches to their individual projects.
The result was a series of beautifully crafted sequences utilizing multiple techniques including 3D, live action, photography, clay-mation and stop-frame animation. Titles included ‘Cookies and Milk’, ‘The Flying Cow’, ‘Noteface’ and ‘Moon Man’. Said Nicci DuToit, “Originally, we were expecting to choose a single spot to air on MTV base, but the results were so outstanding that we eventually decided on 14 spots. From sound and music design to the crafting of every frame, we were awestruck at the outcome - especially given the tight deadines and the students’ level of experience.”
As an added bonus, four of the students who participated in the project have been offered a month’s internship with the MTV base Production team during the June/July Summer Holidays
Radio stations and their listeners across the country have been aiding disadvantaged communities in their regions through various CSI projects by raising funds, distributing food and providing necessary school materials for less fortunate children.
These magic helpers include 567 CapeTalk, East Coast Radio, MPowerFM, Capricorn FM and trufm. 567 CapeTalk held a radiothon on 26 January 2009 in partnership with Ikamva Labantu from 6am - 6pm and raised R3 750 190 for orphans and vulnerable children.
Ikamva Labantu is a community development organisation that feeds, clothes and educates orphaned children on R150 a month. It gives this amount to community carers who are accountable for the stipend.
Programming on the station for the day highlighted the plight of children, as well as the work done by individuals and organisations. CapeTalk listeners were asked to donate R150 per month, for a year. Pledges came from listeners as well as Cape Town mayor Helen Zille and premier Lynne Brown and the corporate community.
"We were astounded at the response; it was quite unprecedented. But what really impressed me was that the bulk of money was committed by listeners - it speaks volumes about the power of talk radio to mobilise people," said 567 CapeTalk station manager Colleen Louw.
East Coast Radio's Toy Story 2008 campaign recently came to a close after nine weeks of collecting toys and cash for less fortunate children in Kwazulu-Natal. The campaign raised just over R1 million for food parcels and toys distributed to underprivileged children.
The food parcels, valued at R300 each, were supplied by Spar and were distributed to child-headed/care-giver households in the region, with a focus on those affected with HIV and AIDS. The contents of the parcels were approved by Spar's group nutritionist.
MPowerFM in partnership with BHP Billiton provided new school uniforms and stationery to eight street children as part of its Dare to Care project. The children, selected during a two-week campaign on MPowerFM in December 2008, are all from the Ethembeni Home for Street Children in Witbank.
"The children range in age from 6 to 14 years, and we know this will make a huge difference to their lives. We were transported around Witbank by Kohler Auto Witbank, and it's amazing how sponsors have come on board for this project," said Louisa van Wyk, MPowerFM's marketing manager.
The Department of Local Government and Housing in Limpopo and Capricorn FM handed over 16 newly-built homes to 16 women in Fetakgomo Village, Limpopo in December 2008 as part of its 16 Days, 16 Homes, 16 Families campaign.
Capricorn FM raised a further R42,000 for the campaign, handing the money to MEC of the Department of Local Government and Housing, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, for equal distribution among the beneficiaries. The event was part of 16 Days of Activism Against the Abuse of Women and Children and all beneficiaries were victims of domestic violence.
SABC youth radio station trufm (previously Radio CKI) has built a fully-equipped science laboratory at Unathi High School in the Eastern Cape.
Despite limited resources, the school had a 100% matric pass rate in 2007. This caught the eye of trufm management "The building of the lab is to encourage more effective teaching and also this is one of the ways that trufm is showing its dedication to the development of the Eastern Cape and its young people," said Siphelele Sixaso, the station's marketing manager.
The government has compensated 29 residents from the Nyamyumba Sector, who will be evicted from the area where Rwanda Television transmitters will be established.
According ORINFOR's director of Finance and Internal Resources, Alphonse Bizimana, the compensation is worth close to Rwf 12 million.
The move to construct a station in the area has been well received by the residents who do not receive RTV signals.
Speaking to The New Times, the residents commended the government for working hard to ensure that they get these signals that will enable them watch the national television.
"We are finally optimistic of receiving the signals soon, I personally thank President Kagame for making true his promise because it was during his recent visit to Gisenyi that he promised we would receive TVR signals," Jean Damascene Musawudi a resident of Gisenyi town said.
During his visit to the Western Province late last year, the President had promised the residents that they would get the RTV signals as soon as possible. According to Josée Mwiza, a resident of Mbugangari in the same sector, RTV will help Rubavu residents learn Rwandan culture.
Residents in this area which borders with the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo have not been receiving the RTV signals prompting them to watch stations of the neighbouring country.
“Our children have for long watched programmes broadcast on Goma TVs which has indirectly influenced their behaviour and culture. RTV programmes will help them know more about their culture," she said.
Bizimana last week assured Rubona residents that the construction of the transmitter will take less than two months.
The New Times
In television, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong… A South African TV station erroneously broadcast that former US President George Bush had died during one of its news bulletins. The "misbroadcast" happened when a technician pressed the "broadcast live for transmission" button instead of the one for a test-run.
For three seconds ETV News ran a moving banner headline across the screen saying "George Bush is dead". The station said test banners would now be done in "gobbledegook". The mistake happened when a senior staff member wanted to see how a rolling banner headline looked.
"The technical director pressed the wrong button, it took a second for the words to appear and then the words were on screen for only three seconds before they were taken off," said spokesman Vasili Vass. He said he could not comment on if the person responsible would face disciplinary action. "We've learned from it, all test banners will now be done in gobbledegook," he added.
The mistake was first reported on by the Afrikaans language newspaper Beeld, and on the media group's website, News24.com. "Its unfortunate, because we never comment on their mistakes," said Vass.
Filmmaker South Africa
- While Tshwane Community TV missed its December 2008 deadline of being on air and broadcasting in the capital city, it is only a matter of time before residents start enjoying their own 24-hour community television channel - it is now expected to launch at the end of March 2009.
Indian community channel Saffron TV has been awarded exclusive rights to air King Khan's Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain?' (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), it announced earlier this week.
Stan Joseph, CEO of Ochre Moving Pictures and executive producer of Saffron TV, commented, “Acquiring exclusive rights for Paanchvi Pass is a great milestone for Saffron TV and we will be working hard to bring the very best to local audiences.”
On Friday, 13 February 2009, the Bollywood's No 1 star, the much-loved Shah Rukh Khan, asks, “Kya aap paanchvi pass se tez hain?” launching a series that is intended to keep viewers of channel 456 on the DStv Indian bouquet glued to their seats.
Paanchvi Pass, based on international TV show “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” features adult participants vying for a 50 million rupee (R10 million) prize and was reportedly one of the most widely watched television shows in India.
The 39-part series as part of the new Saffron TV lineup, which includes The Rise and Rise of Shah Rukh Khan, Main Miss India, Italian Khana hosted by Ritu Dalmia and the Maximum Style series from Zoom Entertainment.
Following the closure of GTV, DStv, whose subsidiary office in Cameroon is managed by Spectrum Media Group, has secured the licence to broadcast all Barclays Premier League games. DStv now has these rights for the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of Nigeria.
Coverage will be broadcast via its sports channel, SuperSport. This information is contained in a press release signed by SuperSport's Chief Executive, Imtiaz Patel. "We are pleased that Barclays Premier League supporters on the continent will continue to enjoy the best of the league. We're delighted to have Package A matches in the SuperSport fold. We'll continue to deliver the very best in sports broadcasting," Patel noted.
SuperSport already held both live Package A & B rights for South Africa and live Package B rights for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. With this new deal, they have secured all Premier League live rights for the remainder of the 2008/2009 season and for the rest of the next season.
Proud of its long association with the Premier League and with a history of showcasing the finest club soccer on its bouquet of channels, SuperSport's viewers in Africa will benefit from appetising Barclays Premier League fixtures. Traditionally, all these matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport 7 and the Premier League Package will include; expert analysis highlights and post-match comments.
Corroborating Patel, Eben Greyling, President of Multichoice, the mother house of DStv said; "We have over two decades of experience in pay television in Africa and have built up a business, which is sustainable in the long term. Our track record of providing premium content to DStv subscribers is unmatched and the return of all Premier League matches will further enhance our premium offering."
Premier League Director of Media Operations, Phil Lines said after clinching the deal with Multichoice. "We're very pleased to have been able to move quickly and reach an agreement with SuperSport. That means our matches will remain available for viewing by Premier League fans across Sub-Saharan Africa with the minimum of disruption."
- As part of measures to further raise awareness on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts, Port-Harcourt recently joined its parent company Starwood Hotels and Resorts' to partner UNICEF to launch a programme titled Art is Life. A statement by Le Meridien said the programme is launched across the entire network of the hotels and resorts in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. According to the statement, as part of the Check Out for Children partnership, Art is Life gives guests the opportunity to support UNICEF's HIV prevention programmes in Africa through the addition of a $1 (or its local currency equivalent) donation upon checkout.
- Radio 2000, the SABC's official 2010 radio station, has signed a deal with Nigeria's all-sports radio station, 88.9 Brila FM. The deal between the two stations concerns Radio 2000 circulating its 2010 information, reports, interviews, and features with Brila FM.
A whopping R1 billion. That is the total funding requirement of On Digital Media (ODM), director Vino Govender told Bizcommunity.com, as one of South Africa's pay-TV new players makes final preparations to enter the tough but lucrative market monopolised by MultiChoice for more than a decade.
“We are still on track and we will deliver according to our plans. We made some minor changes to our model in certain areas; this, however, has had no significant impact on our overall strategy,” Govender said.
In August 2008, Govender told Bizcommunity.com that ODM will begin broadcasting in June - July 2009. Unfortunately, the company will no longer meet that deadline due to undisclosed reasons. This time, however, he said broadcasting operations will only be launched in the third quarter of 2009.
But some observers believe that the postponement might have something to do with the current hostile economic climate. But Govender would not be drawn into the debate of the current economic climate, let alone say whether these conditions are affecting ODM's operations in any way. “ODM supports the view that people should be spending their disposable income more efficiently during tough economic conditions.
“These conditions support the opportunity for pay-TV operations to start introducing more flexible packages into the market to ensure that there is no channel wastage in terms of the consumers monthly spend.”
ODM said consumers should be given the option to pay for exactly what they want to watch and not the usual one size fits-all package that is available in the market today.
The company received its broadcasting licence in July 2008, and said it will offer consumers an affordable service and real choice.
Christian network Walking on Water Television (WoWtv) and e.sat - e.tv's sister company - could not be reached for comment. e.sat COO Bronwyn Keene-Young and spokesperson Vasili Vass were still overseas and WoWtv co-founder Luyanda Mangquku did not return calls or emails by the time of going to press.
Telkom Media is still without a soul. Spokesperson Chris van Zyl declined to comment, except to say that a ‘major announcement' is on the cards.
In September 2007, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) awarded four pay-TV licences to new entrants, setting off a ‘deadly' competition and delivering a massive blow to MultiChoice's ‘dictatorial reign'.
While ODM and WoWtv are busy sharpening their knives to spar against giant DStv, e.sat signed a ‘peace agreement' with MultiChoice, preferring to sleep with the enemy and supply it with programmes.
An intensive review of Durban's growing film industry will be carried out by Martin Cuff Consulting, appointed by the Durban Film Office (DFO), in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development (KZNDED). The Durban Film Review aims to produce a revised business model for the DFO, develop a growth and development strategy for the industry in general, identify and connect the key role-players, and determine the role and exact impact upon the local economy.
This should drive activity and development in the sector in order to boost tourism, job creation and the development of core skills and SMMEs in the region. The DFO is the film-industry development arm of the Ethekwini Municipality, mandated to position Durban as a world-class film production destination and facilitator for the development of the local film industry.
“Essentially, Durban and KZN have been operating in an information vacuum,” says review coordinator Martin Cuff. “This is not unusual; the film industry around the world is notorious for failing to provide the kind of statistical facts and figures that allow governments to understand exactly what it is dealing with and how best to assist.”
The review will cover all entertainment media production activities including feature film, television, TV commercials, stills photography, animation, new media and video games. It will also encompass a range of sector-supporting development and distribution interventions, such as film education and training.
“In spite of the industry's apparent growth (a 41% increase in production activity) over the last five years, the exact impact of the sector in the province is hard to determine,” Cuff continues. “As such, it's also increasingly clear that a ‘business as usual' approach will not serve to create a sustainable business model for Durban/KZN.”
“We believe that the city is finally taking up its rightful place as both a globally competitive film venue and an important contributor to the local economy,” says Toni Monty, head of the FDO, “and we need to be ready to manage the challenges and demands that come with such growth. We are extremely fortunate to have the support and co-operation of our local role players, without whom we would not be enjoying quite as much success and receiving the accolades of local and foreign film makers and companies alike.”
“Cooperation and planning are just two of the success factors of filming in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). We have worked hard to create a well-organised, efficient and supportive infrastructure around the industry in the city and the province,” Monty adds.
“We are fortunate that in Durban we also have the support of our the Department Of Economic Development (KZNDED), City Executive, the tourism authorities and the local industry role players (Durban Film Partnership), all of whom make facilitation so much more efficient. The easier it is for film-makers, producers and directors to turn their projects into reality in a cost and time-effective and efficient manner, the more they want to work in our part of the world. In addition, we also have fantastic locations and scenery.”
- Taxi media owner Massiv TV and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) announced a R60 million equity transaction by the corporation on Tuesday, 3 February 2009. The deal will see the IDC acquire 24% of Massiv TV, with a further percentage interest banked for an empowerment suitor. Massiv TV retains 51% of the business
The first time I visited award-winning Northern Nigerian filmmaker Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama in prison, a week after his arrest, the former Kano State gubernatorial candidate seemed to be in high spirits.
Dressed immaculately in a crisp dogon riga, the only physical sign that he was in prison was his rubber slippers. He joked with the friendly prison guards, greeted each visitor by name, and narrated how in December 2008, a mobile court justice had sentenced him to three months in prison and a fine equivalent to $2,500 for allegedly failing to register his company, Iyan-Tama Multi Media, with the Kano State Censorship Board.
He was also sentenced to a further year in prison, with option of fine, for supposedly selling his film Tsintsiya without having it censored by state authorities.
"The judge held up Tsintsiya and asked if this was my film." Iyan-Tama told us. "I said, 'Yes, but it's not for sale in Kano.' The judge said I should answer, 'yes or no, yes or no.'"
The melodramatic behaviour of Justice Mukhtar Ahmed, who insisted on passing judgment on the politically-active filmmaker even after a subpoenaed police witness did not show up in court, was the climax of a case that has unfolded like a plot out of a "Kannywood" film.
Iyan-Tama was first arrested and charged on May 8, 2008 in a mobile court, an ad hoc court established by the chief judge of Kano State for the quick dispensation of justice on censorship-related offences. Iyan-Tama had returned to Kano from the Zuma Film Festival in Nigeria's capital city Abuja that same day, where his film Tsintsiya, a Nigerian "remake" of Westside Story sponsored by the U.S. embassy, had won a prize for "Best Film on Social Issues."
The Director General of the Censorship Board told IPS that film industry stakeholders are expected to keep a certificate of registration with the censorship board in their possession at all times. If they produce their certificate when requested by the mobile court, they go free; if not, they are to be charged.
According to his brother, Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Iyan-Tama had advertised on radio and in major newspapers that his film was not for sale in Kano. However, after a police raid on another filmmaker's shop, several copies of the film belonging to the film's star, Baballe Hayatu, were confiscated from a desk drawer and used as evidence against Iyan-Tama.
Northern Nigeria's film industry, which employs thousands and until 2007 was worth 35 percent of the thriving "Nollywood" industry, is accused by its critics of "adulterating" Hausa culture. However filmmakers, musicians, and novelists often claim that they are scapegoated for exposing corruption.
According to Sani Mu'azu, president of Motion Pictures Practitioner's Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), Iyan-Tama's arrest is political: "Iyan-Tama is a victim of his political activities. He contested along with [Kano State Governor] Shekarau for the governorship of Kano State, and he vocal[ly] challenged the transparency level of the governor. Kano Censor's Board is just being used to get through a script written from the Government House."
Significantly, in his banned film Tsintsiya, Iyan-Tama plays the governor of Kano State, presiding over an investigation into the causes of sectarian violence.
Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, director general of the Kano State Censors board, a local entity unrelated to Nigeria's National Film and Video Censor's Board, has denied allegations that Iyan Tama's detention is political. In a Jan. 27 interview, he told IPS that Iyan-Tama should have communicated officially with the board about his intentions not to sell in Kano State.
"Whether smuggled, whether brought officially, now that is his own problem. The law says any [film] that is intended to be marketed in Kano must be censored by this board. If it is an exemption, application should be made to that effect. None of this has been formalized with this board. Therefore, it deserves to be punished."
Sarari, who is also Vice President of MOPPAN, responded to Rabo's statements saying the Board had not been able to prove in court that Iyan-Tama had released the film in Kano State: "There was no single marketer who went to the court and said, 'Yes, Iyan-Tama sold the film to me.' None."
Regarding official communication with the state board, Sarari said "[He] produced his film outside of Kano [and] sells his film outside of Kano. He had clearance for the National Film and Video Censor's Board. Why does he have to inform the [Kano State] censor's board, 'I want to release my film in Kaduna'?"
Iyan-Tama's punishment is the most severe in a series of arrests and hasty trials at the mobile court attached to the censorship board and presided over by Justice Mukhtar Ahmed. After a sex scandal involving a Hausa actress in August 2007, stricter interpretations of the existing censorship law began to be enforced, including requirements that anyone involved in the film industry, from actor to editor to video seller register individually with the censorship board. Musicians and writers have also been asked to register.
Sarari estimates that following the crackdown by the censor's board, Kano State has lost billions of naira in revenue.
In November 2008, following a mass protest by film actresses who publicly changed political affiliation from the All-Nigerian People’s Party, to which the Kano State governor belongs, to the People’s Democratic Party, which is in power at the national level and in a majority of Nigeria’s thirty-six states, police raided and closed studios, arresting over a dozen studio managers and other studio workers.
In addition to the higher profile arrests of artistes, there have also been hundreds of arrests and hasty trials of people employed in entertainment-related industries, including "download and transfer" business workers who have been convicted for using cell phones to transfer Hausa music, audio, and video, "traditional medicine" vendors for "obscene" illustrations of their cures, as well as workers in video game and football viewing centres. Several detainees I interviewed described being arrested by plain clothes policemen who did not present identification.
My second visit to Iyan-Tama in prison was on Jan. 22, following the last-minute postponement of his second appeal by the politically appointed chief justice. Although he still joked with the guards, Iyan-Tama was more sober this time.
It was as if he had sensed the news none of us had yet heard. Earlier that morning at 2:15 am, his wife and children had been threatened by unknown thugs who invaded their home and claimed they had "been sent to terrorize them."
"I just want to get out and continue with my life," Iyan-Tama told us. As of Feb. 13, he was still in prison waiting on his appeal.
Legislation governing the SABC is set to change further, with the much-criticised Broadcasting Amendment Bill being further amended after President Kgalema Motlanthe refused to sign it into law.
And the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) has renewed its efforts to have the SABC's articles of association amended in line with legislation and to remove government interference in the broadcaster.
The FXI says the articles are unlawful and unconstitutional and should be amended, and unless this is done by the end of next month, it has promised to seek a court order compelling the minister and the SABC to do so.
The FXI has sent a letter of demand to Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, SABC chairwoman Khanyi Mkonza and acting group CE Gab Mampone asking the SABC to amend its articles of association.
The FXI say that the articles, last amended in 2006, are unlawful as a result of the high level of interference from the communications minister they permit in the affairs of the SABC.
The articles conflict with the provisions of the Broadcasting Act and section 16 of the constitution, according to the FXI.
The problematic areas include the minister having veto power over the appointment of executive directors and the president having the power to appoint the chairman and deputy chairman of the board.
The minister also has veto power over the appointment of the group CEO and can approve the terms of his or her contract.
The FXI has also objected to the level of control the executive arm of government exerts over the SABC. This arises because the presence of the communications minister, who represents the government as the sole shareholder, is automatically the quorum for the SABC's general meeting.
Since the SABC board is bound by the resolutions taken at the general meeting, this gives the executive arm of the government direct control over the SABC.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said this was a shareholder matter.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications has amended the controversial Broadcasting Amendment Bill after Motlanthe refused to sign it into law, the committee said on Friday.
- A Ugandan court in Arua has issued an order barring transactions on two bank accounts owned by the defunct Gateway Broadcast Services (GTV). The order, signed last week by the Chief Magistrate, Michael Otto, follows a suit filed by a local businessman against the company. The businessman is seeking over sh50m in compensation. Michael Moni of Science and Technology masters, who was a GTV dealer in West Nile, said he lost a lot of money when the company abruptly ceased operations last month.
- French pay-TV broadcaster Canal Plus, along with another Vivendi-controlled unit, French mobile operator SFR, have filed a complaint to the French competition authorities accusing France Telecom (Orange) of flaunting the rules concerning its broadband pay-TV service. Canal Plus CEO Bertrand Meheut reportedly told the French daily La Tribune that Orange is unfairly offering a ‘tied sales’ contract offering sport and cinema channels on its broadband TV service, and also selling access to premier French football matches ‘at a loss’. Meheut has apparently stressed that while the joint complaint does not aim to bar Orange from selling the channels in question, ‘Everybody has something to gain from a clarification of the rules of the game … It is the future of the fragile audiovisual market that is at stake’.
DStv subscribers in Nigeria can now pay their subscriptions bills through First City Monument Bank Plc (FCMB) Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) across the country. This is following the bank's deployment of a novel DStv bills payment solution through its ATMs.
The new payment solution which is the first of its kind in Africa, is a convenient service that enables DStv users across the country pay subscription fees directly from their accounts to DStv using their debit cards on any of FCMB's ATMS.
Olayinka Oni, FCMB's Group Head, Information Technology said the service is currently exclusive to FCMB and aims at bringing convenience to the growing population of DStv users and all users of Interswitch debit cards anywhere in the country.
“FCMB has been a major provider of ATM services since 2004 and, today continues to be an industry leader in financial services innovation. We are delighted to be the first bank to provide an ATM based DStv bills payment solution across the country, and will continue to introduce new services that provide increased flexibility and comfort for our customers”, Oni stated.
Anurag Saxena, Chief Executive Officer, FCMB said As part of our effort to expand our service network, we recognise that the ATM is an important and efficient contact point for customers outreach. This world-class DStv payment solution is a reflection of our intent to not only increase the quality of ATMs services we have in the country, but also to find ways of making available to our customers painless and easy payments.
Kapa Kaumba, Managing Director, Multichoice Nigeria said, Multichoice Nigeria is really excited about this latest FCMB initiative. This bodes well for our continuously progressive relationship with FCMB and is part of Multichoice and FCMB's plans to make customer service the mainstay of our businesses.
He said his organisation expects that this initiative will result in a seamless payment process for customers and that FCMB will deliver a quick turnaround time for processing customer payments so as to have multichoice patrons reconnected as soon as possible.
99.2 Yfm released its custom Apple iPhone application yesterday, Thursday, 12 February 2009, claiming to be the first radio station in Africa to do so. The app allows any person with an iPhone or iPod Touch to access the station's content anywhere in the world.
According to Yfm marketing manager Tamaria Motsepe, the program MobiYze is a free download from the Apple iTunes store. "Any iPhone or iPod Touch user can search the Apple Store for Yfm and download it immediately," she said.Yfm CEO Kanthan Pillay, said the iPhone application had been planned as part of the station's digital strategy in 2008.
"When we launched our 2008/9 programming lineup in April last year, we also launched a state-of-the-art Internet presence developed by immedia which saw us completely integrating the world wide web into our programming and sales strategies," he said.
"When the iPhone launched, we saw a great opportunity to take advantage of that innovative platform to take our digital presence to the next level."
Yfm has always nurtured ambitions to take the brand outside of its Gauteng broadcast area, but has been held back by regulatory hurdles which do not allow private radio stations to acquire a national footprint. The station has been available around the country on DStv's audio bouquet, but this was clearly not convenient for the station's youth market. Pillay said the new programme allows any Yfm listener to listen to the station anywhere in the world.
"The Yfm listener is always on the move," said Pillay. "MobiYze will now allow her to listen to us in Cape Town or New York or Tokyo. It will pick up Yfm from a wireless hotspot if available. If not, it will pick up the audio via 3G or Edge."
According to Yfm sales manager, Winston Goldin, the new platform offers new advertising opportunities. "There are clearly going to be opportunities for innovative advertisers who are able to exploit the synergies between on-air programming and the measureable response of the new platform," he said.
The station is already working on the next upgrade to the application which will allow for greater interactivity including instant polling.
- Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburi is expected to give an update on the readiness of South Africa's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure ahead of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup next week.
- The South African Democratic Alliance asked the Public Protector on Monday to investigate the alleged abuse of state funds in some SABC broadcasts. This emerged from a letter - that was released to the media - from DA MP Motlatjo Thetjeng to the Protector, Lawrence Mushwana. He has been asked to examine "three possible cases of abuse of state resources involving the department of housing and the department of agriculture as well as the abuse of the website of the SA embassy in Netherlands to promote the ANC".
- Collaboration between the SABC's “Traffic Watch” team, Marketel, NGN Telecoms, Vodacom and the SABC's New Media Unit has resulted in an up-to-the-minute “News Break” traffic update service. By dialing 082 152 and choosing option 3 (traffic), users will connect to a “service within a service” that should allow them to hear a list of incidents affecting the flow of traffic on the country's roads, on a 24/7 basis. Incident information is gathered from a variety of sources including the motoring public, national, provincial and local traffic and roads authorities, emergency services, toll-road operators and road-building and maintenance contractors.
- The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has introduced a new standard for IPTV services, Recommendation ITU-T Y.1901, which specifies high-level requirements for the support of IPTV services, including requirements concerning service offering, QoS/QoE, service and content protection, middleware, content, network and end system aspects.
- The board chairman of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is "technically still chairman but not practically", according to Information and Communication Technology Minister Joel Kaapanda. Responding to media questions last week after announcing the latest Cabinet decisions, Minister Kaapanda said NBC board chairman Ponhele ya France had handed his de facto dismissal to his lawyers. "Ya France does not attend board meetings any more. This issue can take a long time," the Minister said. Ya France had to face a vote of no confidence by the NBC board after Minister Kaapanda reportedly had summoned Ya France to his office towards the end last year, informing him he was unhappy with his performance and wanted to fire him.
- The High Court trial of former Namibian Broadcasting Corporation Director General Gerry Munyama has been postponed for close to seven months because of the withdrawal of Munyama's defence counsel on Friday.
- Over 70 Golden Horns were awarded at the third South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs), held at the Pretoria State Theatre on Saturday, 7 February 2009. Both Cynthia Shange and Carl Fischer received Lifetime Achievement Awards.
- South African broadcasting legend Kevin Savage has been appointed GM of MPowerFM, effective 1 February 2009, the independent Mpumalanga radio station has announced. Savage replaces founding GM Bondo Ntuli, who resigned in December 2008 to reportedly pursue a private business opportunity in Mpumalanga's entertainment industry.
- Zandile Nkonyeni has been appointed to the newly created position of publicity manager for SABC2, South Africa’s mational broadcaster announced on 12 February 2009. She will also act as the official channel spokesperson.
- The director of Somalia's independent HornAfrik radio station, Said Tahlil Ahmed, has been killed in the capital. An eyewitness told the BBC a group of journalists were attacked on their way to a press conference called by the hardline Islamist militia al-Shabab. Gunmen escaped from the scene and no-one has claimed responsibility. Al-Shabab does not support the new president - Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist - recently elected by MPs as part of a peace process.
The 21st edition of the Pan-African Film & TV Festival (FESPACO) will take place from 28 February to 7 March 2009 under the theme: "African Cinema: Tourism and Cultural Heritage". The upcoming edition will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Festival and the 20th anniversary for the African Film Library of Ouagadougou.
In 40 years, FESPACO has positioned itself as one of the major film events across the continent.
A wide range of activities to celebrate the anniversaries include itinerant exhibitions on the years of FESPACO and African cinema, film screenings, conferences on FESPACO and the FESPACO Foundation.
The 2009 edition will pay tribute to Ousmane Sembene, doyen of African film and pioneer of FESPACO, who passed away on 9 June 2007. He was one of the pioneers of African movie industry and a regular of FESPACO having attended nearly all the Festival's editions without a break from 1969 to 2005. Sembene made more than twenty films including 9 features, and always believed in and defended Africa’s cinema all over the world. Sembene the African, endeavoured to promote FESPACO and to unite filmmakers across the continent and the development of African cinema.
Every session of FESPACO includes the official competition, a highlight of this the biennial event of African cinema. The official competition is exclusively reserved for African and Diaspora Films. The competition is open for Feature films, Short films and Documentaries. The Diaspora competition is reserved for Feature films made by filmmakers from the Diaspora. Prizes for these competitions include amounts up to 2,000,000 F CFA
To celebrate its 40th anniversary properly, FESPACO has invited eminent filmmakers, academics, writers, artists and communicators from all over the world. All of the film industry trades will be represented, from fashion, to music, and even politicians will join to celebrate cinema in Africa.
FESPACO remains a major and favourite platform for meeting and networking for film industry practitioners in Africa and globally. Film and audio-visual practitioners worldwide will be participating in the various workshops and panels.
You may remember that we were in contact last year regarding the exciting programme of films we have curated as part of the Birds Eye View Film Festival. The festival celebrates women filmmakers from around the globe, March 5th-13th, at the ICA and BFI London.
Birds Eye View Film Festival, ICA, London
This year’s Birds Eye View Film Festival is 9 day festival jam-packed with over 70 events and a particular focus on films made within developing countries. It takes a trip around Nigeria’s Nollywood, the world's third largest film industry, meet an animator from Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the talented director of Goddesses - a documentary depicting ordinary women leading extra-ordinary lives in India. Other features include world-class shorts, exclusive director masterclasses and training, plus one-off live music-film events, moving image innovation, parties and much much more. The festival celebrates women filmmakers from around the globe, March 5th-13th, at the ICA and BFI London. For more details: www.birds-eye-view.co.uk
Talent Campus Durban 24 - 28 July 2009 at the 30th Durban International Film Festival
The 30th Durban International Film Festival (22 July - 2 August 2009) is proud to announce the 2nd edition of Talent Campus Durban from 24 - 28 July 2009, an intensive 5-day programme of workshops and seminars delivered by film professionals to enhance both theoretical and practical approaches to filmmaking. The 2nd Talent Campus Durban theme Roots and Shoots: Creating a New African Cinema will focus activities towards the development of new partnerships between African filmmakers.
Talent Campus Durban invites filmmakers from Africa to apply to participate in these workshops and seminars, which take place in Durban, South Africa, over five days. In addition to specific activities offered by the Campus, the selected talents will have the opportunity to attend films and events at the 30th Durban International Film Festival.
Deadline for application: 16 March 2009
Talent Campus Durban is produced as a cooperation between the Durban International Film Festival and the Berlinale Talent Campus, and Berlin International Film Festival and is supported by the German Embassy in South Africa, the Goethe Institute South Africa and the Department of Economic Development - KwaZulu-Natal.
The Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) with principle funding and support from the National Film & Video Foundation, HIVOS, SABC, Stichting Doen, Department of Economic Development - KwaZulu-Natal, City of Durban, and the Ethekwini Municipality.
Botswana: Invitation to tender for consultancy services to undertake a broadcasting audience survey
The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA or Authority) invites tenders from interested parties to provide consultancy services to undertake audience survey of the broadcasting industry in Botswana.
The BTA therefore intends to carry out a broadcasting survey on behalf of the NBB to establish the extend and nature of television and radio audiences in Botswana since the introduction of competition in the broadcasting sector in Botswana.
The bidding consultancy firms should have experience in carrying out broadcasting audience surveys especially in developing markets.
Tender documents with an outline of the scope of work can be collected from the BTA office from 17th February 2009. Bidders are required to pay a non-refundable fee of Two Thousand Pula (BWP 2 000.00) VAT inclusive or its convertible foreign currency equivalent.
The tender documents could also be obtained through e-mail upon proof of payment of the said fee to the BTA account which would be given upon request.
Bid documents should be submitted in a soft copy together with one(01) original plus five(05) copies (hard copies) enclosed in separate plain inner envelopes and marked “original” and “copies” as appropriate, sealed in one plain outer cover labeled “TENDER FOR THE BROADCASTING AUDIENCE SURVEY IN BOTSWANA” and properly addressed to the Authority at the following address:
The Chief Executive
Botswana Telecommunications Authority
Plot 206/207 Independence Avenue
Private Bag 00495
Bids should reach the BTA not later than 12:00 hours, (GMT+2) on 27 March 2009 and the bids will be opened on the same day at 12:05 hours at the BTA offices in the presence of bidders or their representatives.
Interested bidders may obtain further information from:
Mr Caiphus Moletsane
Tel: +267 395 7755
Fax: +267 395 7976