Issue no 50 19 March 2009

top story

  • Once upon a time everyone knew what television and radio were and they played a key role in people’s lives. Particularly for urban Africans they were the soundtrack to life, the sports match in the bar and the common conversations about television programmes. Nowadays in the more liberalised of African countries there are more television and radio stations than you can remember the names of and for the smaller group of the more well-off, there are pay TV channels, time-shifting and DVDs. And all that’s before you take into account SMS information services and the Internet which are eating away at the edges of the audiences. Russell Southwood looks at the fault-lines.

    Dakar will shortly have 7 television stations, not including the three Pay-TV channels you can get if you can afford them or can pirate a service. Lagos has 13 television stations and perhaps three main Pay-TV channels. Kinshasa has over 40 television stations, many of which simply show pirated television content. In this circumstance, no channel will get more than 20-30% of audience share on a regular basis.

    Pay-TV may seem a very modest presence in most countries but because it is widely watched in public places, it audience reach is understated by its subscriber numbers. Furthermore, piracy means that a large number of additional subscribers (sometimes double the number) are watching without paying for content.

    Vernacular radio has exploded and the number of radio stations is exponentially larger than for television stations as many of them are much more local. Uganda has 150 stations and Kenya over 90. But whilst radio might have a wider and deeper audience reach than television, the fragmentation makes it difficult for advertisers to reach their audiences.

    The standard broadcasting formats that seemed to serve so well in less competitive times are now being taken apart and put back together by the viewers and listeners themselves. Legitimate and pirated DVDs provide a steady stream of relatively cheap entertainment, particularly of films. Recent releases may command a better price but three relatively old action action movies (Bruce Lee, Stephen Seagal, that kind of thing) can be bought for around US$2. PVRs, streaming and catch-up downloads will all become a reality as part of the dividend of cheaper bandwidth in 2009.

    Middle class Africans are using a growing array of devices. Laptop use is growing as sales of this kind of computer begin to equal those of desktop PCs. High-end smart phones like Blackberries and iPhones are increasingly visible. One African carrier has 800,000 high-end phones on its network.

    These devices are not just for doing work or making phone calls. They have become media in their own right. Recent surveys show that in North Africa 3-7% of the population cited SMS as one of their most used daily information sources. Likewise the Internet is set to have a much greater impact with the spread of broadband subscriptions.

    According to Alexa.com, Facebook and You Tube are already amongst the Top 10 sites in the African countries that it analyses. Again based on survey work, between 1-8% of the population used the Internet daily across a range of very different countries. With cheaper international bandwidth, these figures will increase slowly but surely. Mobile Internet will become cheaper and play an increasingly large role in people’s lives.

    Current ad spend on the Internet and SMS is tiny but ad money will migrate as it gets larger. This is money that will most likely be lost to newspapers which seem the most vulnerable as the media landscape’s tectonic plates begin to shift.

    So what can the African broadcaster do faced with all of this? There are two ways to stay in the game: by using new media to extend the appeal of interesting content across all platforms and by stealing new media’s best ideas and using them to survive. Unfortunately too few TV stations have invested in convincingly local TV content that might well provide the adhesive that would keep viewers eyeballs glued to the their channel.

    This article is a summary of a more detailed analysis in the recently published African Film and TV Yearbook. A list of contents can be found by clicking on the following link: http://www.balancingact-africa.com/yearbook.html

    The second part of the Yearbook contains a full listing of African film and television companies broken down by country as well as a section with useful international addresses for anyone in the sector in Africa. There is also two specially focused listings: one looks at Film Location Agencies and Screen Commissions across the continent and the other lists companies and education institutions providing film and television training.

    The African Film and TV Yearbook can be bought in bulk by companies. See costs below:

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content

  • Ethiopian Haile Gerima’s film Teza won the Best Film at Fespaco. The Film took Gerima 14 years to make and tells the story of a young medical research scientist from Ethiopia who returns home after training in Germany to find a bloodletting authoritarian regime in place.

    Gerima not only directed the feature but also researched it, wrote it, spent years raising money for it, edited it, composed the soundtrack for it and auditioned every actor. FESPACO’s judges praised Teza for its strength, depth and poetry, coveying the dashed hopes of a returning intellectual elite.

    The lead role of Anberber, an idealistic Ethiopian academic who refuses to yield to the killings of political dissidents and villagers, is played by US-based Ethiopian Aron Harefe. He was not able to read Amharic so someone had to read him every line before it was spoken.

    South Africa scooped six awards at the same event, including the Silver Stallion Prize for John Kani’s Nothing But the Truth, which additionally received the Ousmane Sembene Prize for Peace.

    Director Khalo Matabane’s television series When We Were Black was awarded the Best Television Series prize, while Jerusalema received three awards for Best Actor, Best Editing and Best Cinematography. In the Best Documentary category, the award went to Egyption filmmaker, Jihan Tihari, for Behind the Rainbow.

    NFVF CEO Eddie Mbalo, in Ouagadougou to receive the awards on behalf of Nothing But The Truth team expressed his joy at this achievement by South African filmmakers: “It is truly a moment of pride for our nation. It is especially significant that our films receive such recognition from Fespaco, since the films are judged by Africans from across the continent and the diaspora. It is even more meaningful that our fellows in the industry believe that South African products represent the quality and standard that African films are capable of and they best present the ability of African filmmakers”.

    Other South African films entered for the competition include:

    Feature Films

    Triomph - Michael Raeburn

    White Wedding - Jann Turner

    Short Story

    The Last Supper - Ritendra Naran

    Documentaries

    The Manuscripts of Timbuktu - Zola Maseko

    Courting Justice - Jane Lipman

    Television Series

    Gugu no Andile - Minky Schlesinger

    http://www.nfvf.co.za

  • Bank PHB has emerged the exclusive sponsor of CNN International's brand new weekly half-hour interview programme 'African Voices', which debuted over the weekend.

    The commercial partnership positions Bank PHB against CNN's newest, most ambitious personality-driven editorial commitment to Africa yet, and in front of CNN's upscale audiences across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The advertising campaign will also reach millions of online users globally via CNN.com.

    According to CNN's spokeswoman, Syreeta Clarke, 'African Voices' showcases uniquely personal viewpoints and candid, up-close revelations from the international newsmakers who call Africa home.

    CNN's in-region correspondents, Robin Curnow, Nkepile Mabuse, David McKenzie and Christian Purefoy along with Atlanta-based Isha Sesay, bring viewers special reports and interviews from the innovators and thought leaders making an impact in Africa and on the global stage - from areas as varied as sport, politics, business and the arts.

    "This deal echoes the robust investment CNN International is making in Africa across the whole of our business. More than just an advertising deal, this is a true partnership that establishes a meaningful brand association for Bank PHB against what will be a breakthrough half hour of programming," commented Rani R Raad, SVP Advertising Sales, CNN International.

    This Day

  • Cape Town’s animation industry has scored another coup with Peter Pepper’s Pet Spectacular receiving the greenlight this week. Cookie Jar Entertainment and Clockwork Zoo to make first Canadian-South African Animation Co-Production.

    The co-production between Canada’s Cookie Jar Entertainment, a global independent producer of children’s entertainment, and South Africa’s biggest animation studio, Clockwork Zoo, recently received official co-production status from National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and was approved for a production incentive by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) TV and Film Incentives unit last week.

    The 26-episode half-hour show is based on the immensely popular book of the same name by the hottest family in children’s content, mother-son duo Betty and Mickey Paraskevas (Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, Junior Knoll).

    Cookie Jar is behind some of the biggest hits in children’s entertainment, creating nearly 300 episodes annually of some of the world’s favorite shows including: Caillou, Arthur, Hurray for Huckle! and Johnny Test. Their library includes classics like The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Inspector Gadget, The Wombles and Paddington Bear and their licensing division represents their own properties such as Strawberry Shortcake and The Doodlebops.

    Clockwork Zoo is the biggest animation studio in southern Africa, creators of 104 episodes of URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika on SABC and currently delivering outsource work for Welsh, French and UK companies. Peter Pepper will be the studio’s first long-term co-production.

    “We are delighted to be working with Cookie Jar on Peter Pepper” says Sean Rogers, MD and executive producer at Clockwork Zoo. “We couldn’t hope for a more value-driven, experienced company and we will be learning invaluable lessons from their development, production and merchandising teams.”

    “To grow our industry and ensure that jobs in animation are sustainable, we require a steady flow of work into South Africa. The Cookie Jar relationship galvanises the Cape Film Commission’s vision of creating 10 000 animation jobs by 2020,” says Sean.

    Peter Pepper’s Pet Spectacular starts pre-production this Spring. It is the first SA/Canada animation co-production where the work will not be subcontracted outside the country. With Cookie Jar and Clockwork Zoo negotiating more future projects, Peter Pepper’s Pet Spectacular is a landmark in activating the growth of Cape Town animation.

    “The National Film and Video Foundation as the South African competent authority is proud to have issued an advance ruling for the first animation project under the South African/Canadian Co-production treaty,” says Terrence Khumalo, the NFVF’s International Co-Production Analyst. “We view this project as very important in terms of the relationship between the two countries since the treaty was signed in 1997. The spin-offs from this co-production are immense and will lead to more jobs, productions and development of the animation industry in South Africa.”

    Karin Liebenberg, Director of the DTI’s Incentive Administration concurs: “We are also very excited about the future of the animation sector in South Africa and specifically the role that Clockwork Zoo is playing. Since the new film and TV incentive was launched a year ago, six animation productions have been awarded approximately R30 million in total. This is an indication of the DTI’s serious commitment to partnering with animation companies in promoting transformation and sustainable employment in this sector of the creative industries”

    Peter Pepper’s Pet Spectacular will be the first Cookie Jar project using Toon Boom software. Toon Boom has taken an active interest in investing in South Africa by promoting it as an outsource and co-production destination, and now has more than 200 licenses up-and-running in the country. Clockwork Zoo is currently the only active Toon Boom Harmony pipeline in the country.

    Filmmaker South Africa

  • Exciting moments from the 2nd Glo Lagos International Half Marathon will be aired 15 times on DSTV's Super Sports starting March 4. International sports broadcast channel, Supersports, which gave a comprehensive coverage of the event will broadcast actions of the Half Marathon on DSTV, the pan African cable television network beginning from March 2009. In a statement, Modele Sarafa-Yusuf, the coordinator of the Glo Lagos International Half Marathon which held last February 21 said the strategic move to broadcast highlights of the marathon 15 times on Super Sports is to ensure that as many Africans as possible watch the event.

    The Glo Lagos International Half Marathon comprises the media Mock Marathon, Corporate fun Run and the Half Marathon. About 20,000 runners including 44 foreign professionals and 360 Nigerian elite athletes took part in the half marathon. The icon of international marathon, Haile Gebreselassie described the Glo Lagos International Half Marathon as one of the best in the world.

    Glo, in the statement, advised Nigerians to catch highlights of the Half Marathon on DSTV from March 04 on SS-Select channel by 8pm and SS-10 and SS-7 channels by 9PM. On Thursday, the event's highlight will be on SS-Select by 10am, SS-A by 5pm and SS-5 and SS-5Africa by 7pm.

    There will be repeat broadcasts on March 6 on SS-Action by 7pm, March 7 on SS-Action by 3am, SS-Select by 1pm, on March 08 on SS-Select by 10pm, SS-7 and SS-10 by 9am and on March 10 on SS-Select by 6am, on SS-Select by 6pm, SS-7 by 8pm and SS-7Africa by 8pm. The broadcast will be wrapped up on March11 on SS-10 by 8pm.

    Kenya's Kibet Luke and Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands out-classed over 20, 000 other runners to win the men and women top prize money of $50, 000 (about N7. 5m) each, at the 2nd Glo-Lagos International Half Marathon.

    The race, which was flagged off at the Alaka Bus Stop in Surulere, ended at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Onikan. Stephen Jurbe from Kaduna State was the first Nigerian male runner to arrive the finish point while Mary Akor, a US-based Nigerian from Benue State finished ahead of all Nigerian female runners. Both went home with brand new KIA Picanto cars.

    This Day

  • - Moonlighting Cape Town just shot their 1000th commercial in South Africa! The commercial was for Paradox, Norway who came with director Gaute Hesthagen to shoot their Bravida spot for agency Apeland.

    - Master satirist and stage personality, Pieter-Dirk Uys and acclaimed film producer, Anant Singh have teamed up to release Uys's latest stage hit, Elections & Erections on DVD and television, with Singh's company, Videovision Entertainment having shot the show.

    - Nigeria's only all sports radio, 88.9 Brila FM, has signed a 2010 Countdown content deal with the radio and television arm of the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) which is expected to start running in April, the company's Chairman/CEO, Larry Izamoje, has disclosed. According to Izamoje, the deal gives Brila FM the exclusive rights to circulate 2010 information, reports, interviews and features from South Africa for the Nigerian audience on a weekly basis for this year and on a daily basis from next year.

  • The low level of Pay Television in Nigeria has the potentials to boost its penetration and quick spread in the country as long the barriers to accessing the converging media technology are removed, according to My TV’s General Manager Banjat Mirza.

    He said, "Nigerian market is receptive to the development of the sector though presently, the penetration of Pay Television is very low in the country, but the emerging trend points to the great prospects and potentials it has in this country, the global financial meltdown, notwithstanding".

    "The Nigerian market is huge and vibrant", he said, but added that, the issue of merger or acquisition, at this point in time is premature. "Right now the sector is relatively when we look at the size of the sector and its penetration and on the basis of that individual providers in the country, through innovations can have a reasonable share of the market".

    According to Mirza, the current Pay TV low penetration of the country is good for competition in the industry but said he does not however foresee a possible consolidation, the type recently witnessed in the financial sector. Media convergence technologies enable subscribers to enjoy easier and faster access to music, TV programmes, films or games via the Internet, mobile phones or other devices.

    While commending the Federal Government for its liberalisation of policies on communications Mirza said, "If barriers to accessing the technologies are removed, the industry would be better for it "since the technology is Satellite based, the contributions of government would be in the areas of contributing to research and grant a form of waivers on the equipment we import".

    He told journalists at a briefing in Abuja that the latest development from the Pay TV operator in the country, has recorded tremendous growth haven doubled its subscribers base within the last one year, "the converging media technology would make the products more available, affordable and the sophistication of bandwidth. By introducing more channels to its bouquet for children, news, music, Nigerian movies and soap operas and a western family entertainment channel rich in dramas, movies, comedies and science fiction it is set to revolutionise the industry."

    Daily Trust

  • Gombe State government has approved N 100 million for the construction of a broadcasting house for the Federal Radio Cooperation of Nigeria (FRCN) F. M station in the state capital.

    This was made known by the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Sa'adu Alkali while briefing newsmen shortly after a recent state executive council meeting.

    According to the commissioner, the award of the contract is due to the agreement entered with FRCN last year which required relocation and construction of a new building to house the broadcasting station that would replace the already constructed Federal F.M station along Dukku road following its poor location.

    Alkali further explained that it was after the construction of the F.M station by the management of FRCN that it was discovered that the building had become inaccessible due to massive erosion in the area which had made it impossible for the contractor handling the project to install the equipment needed for the take off of the station.

    Similarly it was observed that the location of the radio house was far away from the town as such exposing both the staff to risk of either being or the equipment being vandalized by hoodlums. The contract is expected to be carried out within 16 weeks and thereafter handed over to the management of FRCN for the installation of necessary equipment.

    Daily Trust

  • Denise Epoté, the Director of TV5 Monde-Afrique told journalists during the FESPACO festival that the channel would not favour any one African country in terms of the films it showed. She said what was important to the channel was getting quality productions shown.

    “If I would be inclined to favoritism, I would prefer to show films from Cameroon since that’s my country. What I’m saying to you is that we only favour quality. And under this heading Burkinabè film-makers are creative and make very good films.” The station has been a sponsor of FESPACO since 1995:”We sign partnerships with serious people who are capable of delivering convincingly.”

    TV5 does not believe it makes any sense for it to be the exclusive sponsor of the event:”It would be suicide for a TV chain to insist on exclusivity for a cultural event of this kind. The importance of this kind of event is that it should be seen throughout the world.”

    Nord-Sud

  • The Standard Group has started acquiring broadcast equipment ahead of its entry into the radio business. This follows its acquisition of broadcast rights from a local firm. The Group has now entered the second phase of building a vibrant radio station. The Group’s Deputy Chairman and Strategy Advisor, Paul Melly, announced the award of tenders to supply broadcast equipment to two firms.

    "Broadcast Solutions International Ltd (BSI) and Clyde Broadcast Products Ltd from the UK were selected after demonstrating they had the capacity of setting up a radio operation," Melly said.

    He was speaking during the signing of the equipment supply contract between BSI, a local company, and Clyde Broadcast. He said: "The signing of this agreement is part of a planned Sh250 million investment in the next two and half years. This involves the acquisition of the company which had broadcast rights, investment in equipment and transmitters and development of human capital".

    Clyde Broadcast’s Sales Director, Brian Rowan, expressed delight at the opportunity to work with the Group. " We come on board with extensive global experience," Rowan said. Stephen Areba, the Managing Director of BSI, expressed delight at winning the tender and said the move was an indication that the Standard Group had confidence in local companies.

    Melly urged the Group’s radio listeners in waiting to ready themselves for world-class broadcast based on the Standard Group’s unique established culture of meeting international standards in journalism.

    The Standard

  • - Trade unions at RTG 1 suspended their strike which had been taking place since Thursday last week to cover the death of the President’s wife, d'Edith Lucie Bongo Ondimba, 45 years old, who died on Saturday in Morocco.

    - Botswana Tourist Board has secured 671 advertising slots on BBC World Service TV for eight weeks. The deal has been sealed at a bargain price with a bulk advertising discount. The 671 video slots of 30 seconds each have been spread across North America, Europe and Africa. BBC America (North America) gets 224 slots, Europe has 225 slots while the Africa service had 222, BTB official Keitumetse Setlang has said.

    - World football governing body, Fifa and French news agency, Agence France-Presse (AFP) have partnered in a 2010 legacy initiative that will see more than 300 African football journalists receive specialized training ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

    Reporters and photographers from all 53 countries in Africa will be invited to participate in a series of week-long courses provided by the AFP Foundation.The initiative is part of Fifa's Win in Africa with Africa project, launched after South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup four year ago.

distribution

  • Sithengi CEO Judy Nwokedi announced that plans have been put in motion to see that the film and television market will be held at a date yet to be determined between June and November 2009.

    According to Nwokedi, the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) put their weight behind the resuscitation of Sithengi, which represented one of the most important markets for the African film industry. First established in 1996, Sithengi held its last session in 2006. The return of Sithengi was welcomed as “in the absence of Sithengi, non-African players on continent then facilitated and enabled the presence of African creatives, producers, and directors”, comments Nwokedi. This in essence took the power away from African professionals in the industry, adds Nwokedi.

    Presently provinces have been engaged in the process to determine where the event will be hosted. The board is to make the final decision at the end of March according to Nwokedi. An official request has also been received from Nigeria to host the event in Lagos. Nwokedi added that Sithengi officials are open to the idea of hosting the event around the continent.

    Sithengi’s renewed focus includes strengthening the business and market components of the event. “We want to bring buyers and suppliers together and have them walk away with a deal”, says Nwokedi. There will be a further focus on taking advantage of the economic and cultural aspects of the partnership between the IBSA countries - India, Brazil and South Africa - in line with the South-South co-operation established between those nations. Furthermore, a Sithengi film will be commissioned with major partners.

    Sithengi is set to resume its role as one of Africa’s premier markets for the African film industry but it has become a more crowded market with DISCOP putting on its second market event in Nairobi this September (16-18 September at the Nairobi Hilton) after initial successful event in Dakar earlier this year.

    http://www.nfvf.co.za

  • After several years in which it stayed clear of North Africa because of high levels of piracy, francophone Pay-TV channel Canal + is seeking to re-enter the Moroccan market with a new offer.

    The core of Canal +’s offer for its largely young viewers has been European Championship football matches and new films. By contrast, other channels like Al Jazeera sport and ART (a private Arab bouquet) offer a palette of sporting events for which they have rights for the Maghreb region.

    In order to organise its counter-offensive, Canal + has put together an initial bouquet of 25 channels “which will be developed”, according to a spokesperson at its Paris headquarters. It will be ready for sale by the resellers in a couple of weeks time.

    The new subscription will cost US$335 annually compared to Al Jazeera sport which sells for an annual price of just US$40 and ART which costs US$98.

    As has happened in the past, such a high subscription price risks Maghreb subscribers simply buying “cloned” French access cards to be able to see the channel. Indeed, Canal +’s French bouquets offer a much wider range of sport and films, including the X-rated films that are removed from overseas bouquets. Four cinema channels are retained: Ciné Star, Ciné Frisson, Canal + Family and Canal + Cinéma. Other channels include: MTV France, Game One, Piwi, TVBreizh, Planète and Histoire. It also shows the three channels of France Télévision (F2, F3 and F5).

    According to Canal Overseas, the subsidiary responsible for Canal + outside France, 10 million households are equipped to receive satellite programming in the Maghreb, Libya and Mauritania. The signal will move from analogue to digital in 2011. It is transmitted by Arabsat (Badr 6) in order to minimise the risk that the signal will spill over into parts of southern France.

    At the end of 2008 TPS, which was bought back by CanalSat, adopted the Viaccess 2.5 encryption system. Faced with this hurdle, Algerian pirates found a way of overcoming the encryption and started selling a pirate card for 15 euros which could last anything from 10 days to a season.

    Les Afriques

  • - France Telecom's Orange has added a bouquet of seven English-language channels to its French pay-TV service 'Orange TV' (delivered via IPTV and satellite), as well as a further three foreign channels to its basic package. Amongst the basic channel offering is an African news channel broadcasting in English.

    - SuperSport has acquired the rights to the Spanish premier league best known as La Liga.

    - Sénégal’s Canal Info News is now available in Metropolitan France, Monaco and the Départements and Territoires d'Outremers the Orange France’s Live Box. This represents a potential audience of two million, according to the channel.

investment

  • The Standard Group’s overall financial performance for the 12- month ended December 31, last year reflects sustained business growth and an enhanced profitability trend.

    Announcing the results in the company of the Group Chairman Robin Sewell, Deputy Chairman and Strategic Advisor Paul Melly attributed the improved performance to growth in advertisement and circulation revenue in addition to the company’s ability to adapt within an adverse operating business environment experienced during the first quarter of last year.

    The Group realised an eight per cent growth in turnover, with the level of revenue rising to Sh2.8 billion compared to Sh2.6 billion during the year to December 31, 2007.

    "The results show continued and sustained growth in terms of turnover and profitability of the business," said Melly. In this regard the Group returned Sh429 million in pre-tax profit, up from the previous year’s Sh413 million.

    Operating costs rose three per cent to Sh1.3 billion mainly due to escalating fuel, electricity and distribution costs, depreciation of the shilling and additional staff costs prompted by capacity building and the need to maintain competitiveness.

    Sewell said the company’s planned diversification programme into radio broadcasting would help protect the company’s earnings from erosion. "We are in very challenging times. The international situation is going to make it very difficult in future. But I’m very confident radio station will contribute to growth," said Sewell.

    During the period under review, the Group’s net financing costs increased by 135 per cent due to the company’s sustained investment programme in productive assets. Earnings per Share (EPS), however, rose significantly by four per cent to Sh3.57 from Sh3.01

    The directors did not recommend payment of final dividend, as a temporary measure to strengthen the Group’s financial base owing to massive investment in the ultra-modern Standard Centre along Mombasa Road and the envisaged challenging operating environment this year.

    The board had declared an interim dividend for 2008 which was paid on August 15,last year. The Standard Group Centre will house the production and broadcast solutions as well as serving as the Group’s headquarters. It will be completed in May.

    Melly took issue with the tumultuous international environment and in particular the recessionary impact due to the financial meltdown, saying it necessitates a cautionary optimistic view of the performance this year. "At the Standard Group we are prepared to ensure we remain on top of things," he told journalists at the company’s offices at the I&M Bank Tower in Nairobi, last week. He said the board and management would continue to monitor the unfolding global economic events, as the full impact on the domestic economy remains uncertain.

    The Standard

  • The SABC expects pre-tax losses of almost R800-million this year and has gone, cap in hand, to the Treasury for help. Acting chief executive Gab Mampone said last week the broadcaster was now “monitoring and stopping unnecessary spending” as part of a wide-ranging turnaround strategy. by Buddy Naidu

    He said the fact that the broadcaster was in the red and surviving on overdraft was due to “external factors”, mainly the global economic climate.

    At least R400-million of the R784-million in losses was attributed to the loss of advertising revenue from multinational companies, said Mampone. Expenses for the 2009 financial year were R5.5-billion, up R1.2-billion from the previous year. The Times reported on Wednesday that the broadcaster was facing a deficit of about R700 million - which SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago repeatedly denied.

    Mampone, his managers and several SABC board members, including chairman Kanyi Mkonza, put up a united front as they tried to explain the financial crisis crippling the parastatal. Earlier they spoke to SABC staff as rumours swirled through the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters about retrenchments and pension fund money being used to pay salaries. Mampone and Mkonza vehemently denied both claims.

    Board member Bheki Khumalo said that, though there was no need to panic, it was now “business unusual at the SABC”. Mampone admitted to having “issues over liquidity”. He said the broadcaster had expected growth of 20 percent but was not prepared for such a harsh credit crunch, which resulted in growth reaching only 2 percent.

    He said his team met Treasury officials on Wednesday to, among other things, “seek a guarantee” because the corporation was renegotiating its overdraft facility after it had been “withdrawn ”. Mampone’s chief financial officer, Robin Nicholson, later said that the “banks still have some confidence in the SABC - even if others don’t”.

    Mampone and Mkonza announced several cost-cutting measures, including:

    • the freezing of all posts unless an appointment was “absolutely necessary”;

    • the closure of some news bureaux worldwide, reputed to have cost between R3-million and R5-million to set up;

    • clamping down on or “reducing” foreign trips by all staff; and

    • a review and reduction of the use of consultants and freelance contractors.

    Mampone said the corporation would lobby the department of communications to introduce “marginal” TV licence increases each year. The last two increases, he said, were in 1998 and 2004.

    He said millions had already been spent on infrastructure. Mampone said the SABC hoped its debtors’ book “would return to normal” in the next six months.

    Lawyer Barry Aaron last week withdrew his application in the Johannesburg High Court for the liquidation of the broadcaster, which he said owed him R450,000 in legal fees. He reached an out-of-court settlement with the broadcaster. Aaron told Sapa if he were not paid immediately, he would apply to have the matter reinstated.

    http://www.thetimes.co.za

  • Uganda’s New Vision media group has been listed by the Auditor General as among the 32 statutory corporations that have up-to-date audited accounts.

regulation & policy

  • Le Conseil national de régulation de l'audiovisuel (CNRA) has told community radio station Afia FM which broadcasts to the Grand Yoff area in Dakar to stop broadcasting programmes of a political nature, a move that emphasises the limitations that can be imposed on this type of media.

    CNRA told Afia FM that it risks that include the rescinding of “its frequency in line with article 26 of the law dated 2006-04 of 4 January 2006", in a communiqué issued to the press. CNRA reminded the radio station that the terms and conditions covering community radio licences said:”Community radio stations cannot broadcast information, messages or debates of a political character.” Afia FM broadcasts a series of programmes on the candidates and campaigns of those standing for local election this month.

    Agence de Presse Sénégalaise

  • The Federal Government has cautioned the media to ensure that it reports accurately and with a sense of responsibility. Describing reports by the media on white paper on the electoral reform as not based on facts, Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili called on the media to avoid jumping to conclusions and allow the government do its work properly without being rushed.

    "Even though the government has not finished its deliberations on some aspects of the report, the media has reached the conclusion that the delay is due to disagreements and attempts to alter certain aspects of the report. This is not true," she said.

    She said the government wants to ensure that the final document agreed upon and released to the people is thoroughly debated, settled and workable in line with similar documents.

    "Due to the importance and significance of this document to the survival of Nigeria's democracy, the government will make haste but slowly. Government is working within a process that will ensure that the report is subject to deep deliberations and benefits from the expertise of members of the secretariat. To insinuate otherwise will be a disservice to the Nigerian people and an attempt to accuse the government for a crime it has not committed," said.

    She called on the media to give the government the benefit to go through the normal deliberating processes that will ensure deliberations are concluded on time and a final approved copy released to the Nigerian public.

    Daily Trust

  • - TheSABC denied allegations of blacklisting at the broadcaster in 2005 and 2006 at an Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) hearing last week.

technology & convergence

  • MyNews24 has jumped from the 5th spot on Mark’s Twitter News Ranking Index to 1st. In a month. The road to success seems to be very much in line with a recent column MarkLives published on how news organisations can effectively use Twitter.

    They have a human being posting breaking news updates, replying to reader queries and following followers. In fact they seem to actively search out new readers. The site even jumped the much older @News24 Twitter account which itself has seen somewhat fewer updates than usual. That by the way is a move in the right direction. Few care to follow the dozens of news headlines that gets posted in bulk by some news organisations.

    SABC News and Moneyweb joins Mark’s news listing (both launched on Twitter in the past few days), as does Muti, a news aggregator. We are expanding the Index to follow non-print news resources as well. Would be interesting to see how radio stacks up against online or print brands (@702 seems to be doing pretty well)!

    Further abroad it has been announced that Sky News has appointed a Twitter correspondent - Ruth Barnett - to scour Twitter for breaking news stories.

    http://www.marklives.com/wordpress/?p=443

  • "Our strategy for reaching audiences is market- and research-driven," VOA Director Dan Austin said in a recent interview. "People in Nigeria get most of their news via shortwave radio, so we're there in that market with radio. Many people in Iran get their news through satellite TV, and we're there in TV. If mobile devices [cell phones] are what young people in key markets are using, we're going to be there" broadcasting to them in that format too.

    Austin said Africa is where information technology is literally "leapfrogging."

    "Where they didn't have a hard-wired infrastructure, some countries have gone from shortwave broadcast to text messaging, SMS [short message service], to mobile devices," he said. In Zimbabwe, for example, "we have used SMS with some success, although we still broadcast there from [shortwave] and medium-wave transmitters in Botswana."

    "We are investing a fair amount of money into our technological infrastructure," Austin said. "Right now, we have one foot in the analog world and one foot in the digital world."

    "But, bit by bit, we're putting together a [digital] system," he said, that eliminates tapes and similar recording and playing equipment, relying instead on computerization to get better quality quickly and cost-effectively.

    The U.S. government's premier international radio and television broadcast organization -- the Voice of America (VOA) -- will continue to provide timely news and information to more than 130 million people worldwide while pursing innovative ways to engage this audience, says VOA Director Dan Austin.

    "Everything I have seen or heard from the new [Obama] administration and from people [in Congress] is that there is an understanding that what we do, dollar for dollar, is one of the better investments the American taxpayer can make," Austin told America.gov March 4.

    "Our task is still to provide accurate, balanced and comprehensive news and information programs for foreign audiences. We are just expanding our technical ability to do that while at the same time using state-of-the-art information technology to have a dialogue with people."

    Increasingly, VOA is using the Internet to interact with its audience. In addition to transmitting news and information, it operates social networking programs on its Web site and uses blogs and webchats to encourage audience participation, Austin said.

    It also uses the Internet for English language learning programs. In 2008, VOA awarded a contract to Alelo Inc. to develop an interactive Web-based learning portal to teach English as a second language. The portal is extremely popular with college-age students in China and Iran.

    VOA now broadcasts 1,500 hours of radio and television news and feature programs each week for a foreign audience of 134 million people. Its 1,100 journalists and technicians broadcast in 45 languages (25 through its television arm), using a growing network of 1,200 local radio and television stations, as well as cable systems.

more

  • - Shop assistants with a love for music will have to switch their enthusiasm to ring tones and airtime instead as South Africa’s MTN is taking over 17 Musica stores and turning them into cellphone retailers.

    Nigerian banker Erastus Akingbola has launched a radio station that seeks to propagate morals, ethics and godliness as the basic principles for nation building in a country that forbids outright religious broadcasting. "We want to use the power of the mass media to redress and reconstruct our national value system. We do not preach religion. We preach godliness, morals, ethics and sound value," said Akingbola, the chief executive officer of Intercontinental Bank, who is a Christian.

    The station, Inspiration FM, is the newest addition to at least 15 others in the west African nation's economic capital since it became easier to obtain broadcast licences under a 1992 law that allows private ownership. There are about 90 government and privately owned radio stations in the country.

    Rwanda: Fifth Film Festival to Be Held in June

    This year's film festival has been pushed to June in order for it to coincide with the popular annually celebrated Gorilla Naming Ceremony commonly known as Kwita Izina.

    This was revealed Sunday evening by the founder of the Rwanda Cinema Centre (RCC), Eric Kabera, at an event held to encourage Rwandans to take ownership of the theatre complex currently under construction.

    According to Kabera, the decision to push the festival forward, which normally takes place in March annually, was for it to coincide with the Kwita Izina week to allow more film makers to attend.

    "June is the best time for this festival since many tourists will be in Rwanda for the annual gorilla naming ceremony- Kwita Izina. I therefore call upon all interested companies to support the festival," he said. He said that the decision to postpone the event was taken after consultations with the Ministry of Sports and Culture.

    "This year's festival will be better and bigger, we will invite film makers from across the globe to witness and participate. I am also glad that many of you have taken ownership of this complex (Rwanda Cinema Centre), by committing to own chairs in the theatre," Kabera added. The Rwanda Film Centre, is a local body whose aim is to promote the country's film industry.

    At a recent event that was held at the film centre's almost complete theatre, Rwandans were called upon to permanently own sitting space through pledging and paying for the theatre's seats.

    North American Jennifer Bruneti is one of the centre's mentors, according to her; many film producers have already shown an interest to film in Rwanda