Issue no 51 2 April 2009

top story

  • Africa has taken global programme formats and morphed them into new shapes. One of the latest formats to arrive is VTT Satellite Ghana’s Make Me a Success and its CEO Fathia Ansah-Plonge believes she has got something that is more than simply a copy. Russell Southwood interviewed her about what she hopes to achieve with the new format.

    Make Me a Success is a 1 hour reality programme with 13 episodes. Its focus, according to Ansah-Plonge, is on “empowering women from poor communities and villages”. The women selected all want to become enterprising women and put through various challenges before one wins a US$10,000 prize. The production was shot in Ghana but post-production was done in the UK.

    Contestants were selected on the basis that they could speak English, read and write and be ambitious. Ansah-Plange says it was “important they wanted to do something with their life.” Although from poor backgrounds, many were already running their own small businesses: for example one was a hairdresser and three were dressmakers. Many traded on the side of roads into Accra.

    Another was unemployed but had strong ideas about eliminating malaria. “The idea was to use entertainment to educate the youth.” She established her own company Big Dreams and managed to get a job on a radio station in Accra:”She realised she had talent.” Another opened a small boutique in the city, yet another wants to set up a dress-making school and another wants to become a caterer.

    The production was pre-financed by VTV as it found it hard to attract advertising and sponsorship for a new format. “They didn’t want to take the risk”, says Ansah-Plonge. She is optimistic that a variety of sponsors are likely to come in on the second series.

    However, at the DISCOP media market in February in Dakar, Ansah-Plonge sold the programme to a range of African TV stations including: Nigerian Pay-TV channel Hi-TV (for showing in both Nigeria and the UK), Lesotho Broadcasting, Mali’s Africable, Zimbabwe TV and Citizen TV. SABC is interested in the format rather than the series itself.

    The deals vary considerably but VTT usually got US$150 per episode but will also look to text revenue from viewers voting on the different challengers plus a 30% share in advertising revenue. Nevertheless, she came across obstacles in her own home country: a leading broadcaster was interested in the programme but insisted that VTT pay for airtime. Nevertheless, the programme will be seen there.

    In its home country it will compete with a series of “lookey-likey” reality formats including Mentor (in the Pop Idol, X Factor mould) and GTV’s Stars In Their Eyes. But perhaps the sheer novelty of seeing ordinary women seeking to succeed will help this new African format show stand out.

content

  • In partnership with Reed MIDEM, realscreen co-presented the fifth edition of the MIPDOC Co-production Challenge, which allows five international producers to present their projects to a jury of broadcasters. One of the finalists in the competition was the Cape Town-based film, In the Line of Fire, produced by Bellen Wilkinson, Martina Della Togna and Eugene Paramoer.

    The five finalists pitched their projects on Saturday 28 March during MIPDOC held in Cannes, France. In the Line of Fire looks at what it meant to grow up as daughters of anti-apartheid cleric and leader of the UDF, Alan Boesak. The other finalists in the challenge examined an ancient tapestry, metal-heads in Islamic countries, a child prodigy and his parents and the inner sanctums of three amateur football teams.

    The Locker Room which looks at the drama inside three different football teams' locker rooms won over the Co-pro Challenge judges. The jury was made up of Caroline Behar, head of acquisitions and international coproductions at France 5; Takahiro Hamano, producer/director satellite broadcasting department at NHK; Tabitha Jackson, editor, More 4 at Channel 4 Television; Michele Schofield, director, content, program acquisitions and productions for AETN All Asia Networks and president of the jury Maryanne Culpepper, EVP editorial and new business development for National Geographic Television.

    The winning documentary was produced and directed by Nisan Katz and Eyal Zusman of Topia Communications from Israel. The jury said it was innovative, nicely timed to coincide with the 2010 World Cup and was cross-cultural.

    Screen Africa

  • An explosive documentary to be screened at 9.30pm on SABC3’s Special Assignment shows Zimbabwean prisoners dying of starvation and disease. by Benjamin Bradlow

    The footage, shot secretly with the help of prison officials, was filmed between January and March and follows two prisoners suffering from severe malnutrition.

    One, aged 26, has served half of a two-year sentence for housebreaking. Another has served one year of a two-year term for robbery. Both suffer from pellagra, a form of malnutrition, and survive on one serving of mealie meal a day.

    Zimbabwe’s prison authorities respond to starvation complaints from prisoners by serving additional mealie meal to sick inmates. But this does nothing to alleviate their malnutrition.

    Danzel van Zyl, a senior researcher at the SA Human Rights Commission, said South African prisoners are guaranteed three meals a day, including sufficient protein, fruit and vegetables.

    Roy Bennett, the Zimbabwean Deputy Minister of Ggriculture and the Movement for Democratic Change’s treasurer, was recently arrested and imprisoned on terrorism and sabotage charges, described by the MDC as “spurious” and was interviewed for the documentary shortly after his release. He is out on bail.

    He described conditions in Mutare prison, where he was held, as similar to those shown by Special Assignment. “It was like being with people in a prisoner-of-war camp,” he said. “All you could see was their eyes, their ribs. You could see right through to their backbones.”

    Simon Madini, of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, said the documentary footage proved a fundamental violation of human rights in Zimbabwean prisons.

    “You have a right to life. For you to be able to have a right to life, you must have food,” he said.

    The footage was shot in prisons in Harare, Beitbridge and Khami. A recent report by the Zimbabwean Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender said at least 20 prisoners die every day in the country’s 55 jails.

    The Times

  • Men of the Number, a production from AFDA (South African School of Motion Picture Medium & Live Performance) has won the best film award as well as best director, best screenplay and best actor, at the M-Net EDiT Awards announced at Johannesburg’s Montecasino on 19 March.

    Writer and director of Men of the Number, Mark Strydom, was on hand to pick up the awards. His lead actors, Richard Lukunku and Sibu Gamede, were co-winners of the best actor award.

    Other winners were:

    Best Cinematography: (shared) Dean Jates, She Asked For…, City Varsity and Luke Pallet, Voice of our Forefathers, UKZN.

    Best Original Soundtrack: Tiago David Correia Paulo, Sanctuary, WITS. Special Mention: Animation - Leigh Garakara, Voice of our Forefathers, UKZN.

    There was no EDiT Online Competition this year.

    As Best Overall Project, Men of the Number won R50,000 in cash while the category winners each received a cash prize of R10,000 from M-Net. The prize money goes to the institution responsible for the entry.

    EDiT (Emerging Dynamics in Television) is a learner-based initiative created by South African pay-TV broadcaster M-Net to provide emerging film and television talent with genuine production opportunities within a “real world” environment. Now in its ninth year, the project aims to give these young visual storytellers the platform to showcase their work, hone their skills and enhance their portfolio. As such, the EDiT initiative is open to students at tertiary institutions, who are in their final year of study or post-graduates, as well as to individuals who are doing their apprenticeship or are interns at production companies.

    “Since 2000, the EDiT Awards have inspired many up and coming filmmakers to push boundaries,” said M-Net Corporate Marketing and Communications director Koo Govender. “This year the submissions surpassed our wildest dreams. They show that South Africa’s production line is going strong. We hope to see these filmmakers achieve even great heights in the near future.”

    M-Net’s Head of Local Content Helen Smit added: “Local content is where it’s at on any broadcasting schedule. If it relates to the audience, it works. From M-Net’s perspective we endeavour to open doors to filmmakers. However, it’s important to note that we are a commercial broadcaster and we need commercial material. There is a space for arthouse productions but for our purposes they don’t sell.”

    Smit concluded by noting that EDiT had been a great success since its inception. “It always makes us proud to see young filmmakers who got their break through this initiative going on to build solid film and television careers - and we’re sure that this year’s finalists will be no exception.”

    Screen Africa

  • Before he could recover from the decision by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to suspend the screening of his popular soap Amakorokoza, Mhlanga has had another of his big ideas put on ice again.

    The project dubbed Amakhosi Good Morning was scheduled to hit the airwaves in September this year on Spot FM but it has been put off indefinitely after ZBC allegedly reneged on the agreement.

    "The show was meant to encourage and train young artists in Zimbabwe and we had already recorded the first 26 episodes and paid for time slots. "But what does your only broadcaster do . . . at the last minute they ban us for no reason!"

    Mhlanga said the ZBC management told him that they would not allow his programme to be aired even if he had paid in advance."Imagine being told that we do not want your work even if you pay," he lamented. "ZBC has had problems with me because I have demanded professionalism in the way we have been doing business as partners."

    Mhlanga said 26 episodes constituted what was supposed to be the programme's first season. The fiery Kusile Rural District councillor said they would have proceeded to record another set of programmes had ZBC started airing the initial episodes.

    The talented playwright said it was meaningless for the government and ZBC to complain about pirate radio stations when they threw out programming they deemed to be politically incorrect.

    "This is so because some state and non-state players have closed the industry by rubbishing programmes on political lines and producers have had no option but to service those stations that are ready to accept such programmes," he added.

    Mhlanga said the Ministry of Information should expedite the opening of airwaves so that more players would participate. For now, he said, he would concentrate on recording his plays on DVD and is currently working on a piece called Salakhe.

    "Despite the fact that they (ZBC) don't want me on air I will not give up producing and we are currently rehearsing Salakhe which will be on DVD soon, Mhlanga said.

    ZBC spokesperson said they did not know anything about the banned programme.

    "ZBC will not run its affairs in the media," he said. "If Cont (Mhlanga) has a problem with ZBC he should not rush to the media especially private media to announce he has a problem. He should come to ZBC and have a meeting where the problem will eventually be addressed."

    He said Walter Mupfanochiya, who is responsible for programming and procurement, said he did not know anything about the Amakhosi programme. Amakorokoza has been on and off air as a result of disagreements between Mhlanga and ZBC.

    All Africa

  • - Together with advertising agency Ogilvy Johannesburg, the ANC has produced four commercials that highlight the positive changes ordinary South Africans have experienced since 1994, while acknowledging “there is much more to be done”. Once again Nelson Mandela is prominently mentioned at the beginning of the ad followed by a message from Zuma at the end.

    - Hond se Dinges, the new Afrikaans-language South African film from Johan Heyns, made the number six spot in Ster-Kinekor’s Top 8 for the week 20 to 26 March, and the number 10 spot in the Combined Top 10. Meanwhile, new release Marley & Me, a comedy about the worst dog in the world, opened in top spot for that week. It bumped the multiple award-winning Slumdog Millionaire into second spot, followed by Confessions of a Shopoholic. In fourth and fifth spot were Pink Panther 2 and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (Figures by SAFACT)

  • South Africa is set to get another free-to-air television station. This was announced by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) last Friday in a move to remedy the failed attempt to introduce competition in the pay TV market dominated by MultiChoice.

    The regulator said it would issue an invitation for applications for a licence for free-to-air broadcasting over the satellite platform. Satellite is a viable option because the government and the industry are busy with the migration for terrestrial broadcasting from an analogue system to digital. The only independent free-to-air broadcaster is e.tv, but it uses a terrestrial platform.

    Icasa spokesman Sekgoela Sekgoela said the timing of the invitation had not been finalised. The decision comes amid comments that Icasa's big bang approach of issuing four new pay TV licences has failed.

    Last week saw the demise of Telkom Media, which was the country's best hope for meaningful competition to MultiChoice in the pay TV market. Telkom, which was the only Telkom Media shareholder to contribute money to the failed entity, has written off R450 million in costs on the venture.

    The fixed-line operator said last week that Telkom Media would close down after it failed to secure new shareholders. The company had planned to sell a significant stake to strategic shareholders.

    Sei Mukoma, an ex-Icasa employee and independent broadcasting and competition commentator, said one reason for the failed strategy was that Icasa and the applicants for pay TV licences had not done a detailed economic and market analysis to determine the chances of survival of a new entrant. This would have shed light on the barriers to entry and whether the local pay TV market was ready to support more than one player.

    e.tv's sister company, e.sat, which won a license, warned during the selection process in 2006 that issuing more than two licences would be a costly move. e.sat chose to provide channels to MultiChoice rather than running its own satellite station.

    Mukoma said the blame could not be placed squarely on Icasa's shoulders. The applicants themselves did not do detailed and adequate research. When the licensing process was under way, interest rates were going up and most consumers and funders already faced financial difficulties. "In this situation, a big bang approach was not going to work. The economic risk was not considered," he said.

    Icasa has said that it did not fail in its licensing mandate, as the regulator's role was to license companies to create competition. Beyond that it was up to the companies to make a success of the opportunity. Sekgoela said Icasa's primary role was to regulate the market and not to get involved in the internal operations, including investment strategies, of the companies it regulated.

    "Therefore, Icasa has not in any way failed in its attempt to bring about competition in the pay TV market and believes it was in the interest of the industry and South Africa at large for it to have embarked on the subscription broadcasting licensing process," he said.

    On Digital Media, which won a licence, is expected to launch in the fourth quarter, but has already said there might be a slight delay. It aims to provide up to 60 channels and customers can expect to pay for channels they want to see. It had raised sufficient funds to kick-start its operations. MultiChoice has more than 1.6 million customers and revenues of over R5 billion a year.

    Business Report

  • Delta State government has suspended the board of the Delta State Broadcasting Service (DBS) Warri, the General Manager of the broadcasting organisation, Willy Sowbo, as well as the board of the State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB).

    Commissioner for Information, Oma Djebah, who disclosed this last weekend in Asaba, said the decision was taken at the state executive council meeting which was presided over by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.

    Djebah said the General Manager of DBS, Warri, was to hand over the management of the station to the Assistant General Manager, Current Affairs, Eric James, who is to act as General Manager.

    The General Manager of DBS had been enmeshed in controversy and allegations bordering on financial impropriety and gross misconduct which led the ministry of information to constitute a panel to probe the finances of the station.

    The panel had since submitted its report but no white paper was issued on it. Last Tuesday, the suspended general manager and board members of the station were summoned by the Delta State House of Assembly Committee on Information to explain why the station allowed a man that had taken the state government to court to come on air to "insult the administration."

    Sources told This Day that the action of the state executive council elicited spontaneous jubilation in Warri among the staff of the station. SUBEB on its part had been engaged in a running battle with staff on one hand and with some directors who had resisted their posting out of the board.

    It would be recalled that the embattled board boss who is at loggerheads with some staff of the board who recently locked her out of the premises over what they described as high handedness, inability to pay claims and award of contract among other allegations and called for her immediate resignation.

    This Day

  • Workers of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) are fuming with rage over the new salary structure that has been introduced. This development, which began in January this year, according to sources within the corporation, has sparked anger among some categories of the workers, especially at the senior level in the organization.

    Ampem Darko, the embattled Director General of GBC, who used to take home around GH¢6,000 has had his salary and allowances put up to GH¢20,000.

    His deputy, Anane Sarpong who used to take around GH¢2,000 according to our sources has also been given a huge increment. What has annoyed the workers is the disparities between category 'A' and 'H' who take home salaries and allowances that range between GH¢100 and GH¢300.

    Information reaching The Chronicle indicates that category 'A' workers, which includes all Departmental heads, Regional directors and Regional accountants, since January this year, started receiving over GH¢1,600 whilst the other categories in the same line are still receiving GH¢300.

    The Director General of GBC, Ampem Darko denied knowledge of this development when this reporter contacted him on phone. He also denied that he was earning GH¢20,000 as being alleged and directed this reporter to contact the National Media Commission (NMC) who employed him for verification. "Check from NMC and you will find out about my contract with them, they will probably tell you how much I take" he stressed.

    He said whilst he would not want to comment on the issue, because he believes that the Administrative Manager of GBC should be in the best position to explain in detail the salary structure and working condition of workers, Ampem Darko promised to help rectify any anomaly if noticed.

    When the divisional union chairman, Louis Darko was also contacted by this reporter, he confirmed the story. According to him, the code 'A' upward group of workers who are now enjoying the huge salaries that has become a subject of anger among the workers, negotiated their salary structure and working conditions directly with the board of GBC, as well as top management of the corporation, whilst the code 'A' down ward to 'H' group, which included himself negotiated with the management of the corporation, the mother union of Public Service Workers Union (PSW) for the Ministry of finance to stamp its authority for implementation.

    However, he explained that they (code 'A' downward group) were not lucky enough because, after they had negotiated for increment nearly two years ago, nothing concrete to that effect has since been done by the Ministry of Finance.

    Therefore, he said he would rather place the blame of the disparity that has been created at the doorstep of the government, especially the then Minister of Finance, for deliberately neglecting their concerns.

    He further explained that after negotiations, they presented their report to the then Minister of Finance, Akoto Osei, who made his special assistant, Oko Asare to handle the matter, but till date, nothing concrete had come out of it.

    Ghanaian Chronicle

  • State television, Btv, has been accused of involvement in Botswana Democratic Party's (BDP) factional wars. This followed a story Btv carried last Friday about the recent launch of the ruling party's Maun West parliamentary candidate, Tawana Moremi. The footage captured the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and another BDP activist Gomolemi Motswaledi, who were not the main speakers.

    The two are associated with the Kwelagobe-Kedikilwe faction, while the powerful Department of Broadcasting Services falls under Venson-Moitoi's ministry. Other prominent party officials who addressed the rally were BDP Secretary General, Jacob Nkate and Chairman Daniel Kwelagobe.

    However, they were not mentioned in the news item. Nkate was the guest speaker who launched Tawana, the main event at the rally. In fact, Btv perpetrated an improbable mistake when it referred to Motswaledi as the BDP Secretary General.

    Motswaledi is known to be interested in contesting the Secretary General's position at the next BDP congress. Sources say Btv's failure to acknowledge Nkate and its dubious reference to Motswaledi as the substantive Secretary General was a deliberate manoeuvre calculated to prop up Motswaledi's campaign for the position.

    When contacted, a fuming Nkate said he read sabotage in the whole affair. In fact, Nkate, who is also the Minister of Education and Skills Development, says he intends to lodge a formal complaint with Btv.

    The Director of Broadcasting Services, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, says Nkate has raised his concerns with him. Kaboeamodimo's explanation is that when the story of the launching of Tawana was packaged for broadcasting, the title of BDP Secretary General was "erroneously" assigned to Motswaledi.

    The error, he says, was subsequently corrected in Btv News in English at 9pm. "We tendered our apology," Kaboeamodimo says in his written response in which he also denies that Btv is aligned to any BDP faction or political party.

    "Our mandate as broadcasting services is quite clear; we inform, educate and entertain the nation," he says. With regard to coverage of political events, Kaboeamodimo says they do their best to provide all newsmakers with a fair opportunity to be heard. "You will have seen this in recent Btv News with regard to party political activities," he says.

    Mmegi/The Reporter

  • - Workers at Cote d’Ivoire’s RTI have been staging “sit-ins” that have bought the work of the station to a standstill. According to Notre Voie 303 staff were involved in the strike action. The strikers want permanent contracts and transport allowances.

    - Vibe FM, a community radio station based in KwaMashu, KwaZulu-Natal, recently went live with its first broadcast. The station has been granted a four-year broadcasting licence, from 5 April 2007 to May 2011, to broadcast to the community of KwaMashu and surrounding areas.

distribution

  • RIM is planning to announce a full-episode television service for BlackBerry users as early as next week at CTIA.

    According to NewTeevee.com:

    * It will be an unlimited monthly subscription service for a fee

    * Once a user orders a program, the content will be downloaded in the background over Wi-Fi

    * Multiple broadcast and cable networks have licensed content for the service

    A spokesperson for RIM said it doesn’t comment on unannounced products or applications. However the timing seems right, considering the company is on the verge of launching BlackBerry App World, a competitor to iPhone and Android mobile application storefronts. While it might be a bit late to get into the content distribution game, RIM’s service has some advantages, including 19.5 percent of the world’s smartphone sales.

    What is not known is if BlackBerry carriers are involved, though carriers usually don’t like handset makers going straight to consumers unless they’re helmed by a man named Steve Jobs. And consumers haven’t historically bought into handset content services either. Nokia’s attempt at a content portal, Ovi, could hardly be dubbed a raging success. But BlackBerry users, whose mobile addictions are borderline scary, might buck that trend.

    By downloading content in the background over Wi-Fi, RIM would avoid clogging 3G networks. Downloaded programs would be ready to play when users want to watch them on the go. And once 3G networks finally get up to speed, customers may just want to upgrade.

    By contrast, TV.com’s long-form shows iPhone app chops up episodes into clips and strings them together, with different versions of each clip encoded for 3G and Wi-Fi (the Wi-Fi quality is way better). The BlackBerry content experience would offer reliable, full-length, high-quality over-the-air (well, Wi-Fi) premium video downloads. So that’s an improvement over Apple’s system, which requires you to pay to download an individual episode onto your laptop, then transfer it to your iPhone. But this BlackBerry content service would be a little bit different from what you might think of as mobile video as you’d be using the phone because it’s convenient rather than because it’s connected to the network.

    NewTeeve

  • Ericsson continues to increase HSPA speeds for an even better user experience and sustainable development of mobile broadband. Higher data rates give users an instantaneous connection. A click on a web link brings up the corresponding page immediately, even when many users are online at the same time.

    Ericsson will break its own HSPA world record with the world's first demonstration of HSPA multi-carrier MIMO technology, providing peak downlink data rates of 56Mbps, at the CTIA Wireless exhibition, April 1-3 in Las Vegas, USA. This is another step for HSPA Evolution, further enhancing the mobile broadband experience.

    The increase in speed is achieved thanks to a combination of multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) and multi-carrier HSPA technology. MIMO allows for higher peak data rates and increased spectral efficiency, which provides higher network capacity.

    The demonstration will be carried out with a concept-design version of an Ericsson HSPA-enabled mobile-broadband router. This consumer device can be used anywhere broadband access is needed, sharing a mobile-broadband connection between multiple consumers and providing efficient use of the high-speed broadband connection.

    HSPA multi-carrier technology with MIMO, which is currently being standardized, is scheduled for commercial deployment in 2010. By the end of 2009, Ericsson will support commercial deployment of multi-carrier technology with speeds up to 42Mbps - an achievement successfully demonstrated at the recent Mobile World Conference in Barcelona.

    Ulf Ewaldsson, Vice President and Head of Product Area Radio at Ericsson, says: "Ericsson's continued HSPA Evolution leadership enables higher data rates, increased network capacity and low network costs. This record-breaking demonstration combining MIMO and multi-carrier technology shows the strong potential of further HSPA enhancements. Operators that have chosen Ericsson's network equipment are in a unique position to offer the most attractive mobile-broadband services to their customers, today and in the years to come.

  • - Government through the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Agency (RURA) is considering action against the GTV, a satellite television service across Africa whose local office closed down on short notice. Steven Kinuka Baguma, the former Country Manager of GTV Rwanda said that RURA is handling all cases arising from the company's closure. "As of now, I don't know what actions the regulator (RURA) is considering. However, anyone that has a complaint should file there," he said during a phone interview with The New Times recently.

investment

  • The process to sell Telkom Media has failed and its main shareholder will push for the liquidation of the business, it was announced this morning. Telkom, which holds a 66% stake in the pay-TV business, confirmed in a JSE statement that “an extensive process to identify potential buyers of Telkom's interest in Telkom Media has proved unsuccessful”.

    The telecoms operator added it intends calling the “necessary shareholder meetings to seek the approval for the winding up of Telkom Media”. This is expected to happen within the next 30 days, but industry speculation has it that a meeting may have already been scheduled for next week.

    The minority shareholders in Telkom Media are Videovision Entertainment (15%), MSG Africa Media and WDB Investment Holdings (5%), a staff incentive trust (4%), as well as an unnamed black empowerment shareholder (5%).

    In March last year, Telkom announced its intention to significantly reduce its shareholding in the pay-TV service provider and has, since then, reduced its operational expenses and commitments to a minimum.

    Telkom never really revealed its reasons for wanting to exit Telkom Media, bar an announcement by Telkom CEO Reuben September last year, who indicated the pay-back period for the telco's investment was simply too long. By that stage, Telkom had already invested R700 million in the business and September stated Telkom would reduce its total planned investment of R7.5 billion to R5.3 billion.

    Last week, Telkom Media spokesperson Chris van Zyl said he could not comment on Telkom's proposed liquidation announcement, as it was a shareholder matter. He also declined to comment on the future of the company's employees, or on reasons for Telkom's failure to secure an investor.

    However, company sources claim that, despite a number of parties showing interest in Telkom Media, it is likely their inability to provide guarantees could have scuppered a potential deal. At one stage, potential suitors were rumoured to be China's Shenzen Media and local business magnate Tokyo Sexwale.

    An insider questions why Telkom would make such an abrupt turnaround and states Telkom Media is also in the dark regarding the extent of the telco's reasoning for its sudden divestment decision.

    “This is very unusual. Telkom Media's business plan - conceived back in 2005 - received Telkom board-level approval in August 2006. Then a new board and a new CEO come in and suddenly there is this turnaround.

    “It's a very strange situation. The business plan was very viable and had been re-evaluated a number of times. It could be that some elements within Telkom could have been unhappy with some aspects of the plan, but this was never communicated to Telkom Media,” notes the insider.

    In September 2007, Telkom Media was granted a commercial broadcasting licence, allowing it to provide satellite pay-TV services and IPTV in SA. The company claimed it had been ready to start operating since November 2008, when it announced details of technology purchases and infrastructure.

    However, a former senior manager of Telkom Media disputes this, saying all funding and work stopped in March 2008. He also alleges no technology platforms were purchased, due to certain members of the executive committee “wanting to make some money on the side through these deals”.

    ItWeb

  • UNESCO, in collaboration with the Peace, Family and Media Association (PFMA), has sponsored training and equipment for school mini-media clubs in 10 locations in Addis Ababa. Luc Rukinama, UNESCO’s Representative to Ethiopia, handed over 10 tape recorders and radio cassette recorders at a ceremony held at the UNESCO Office in Addis Ababa on 24 March.

    Speaking during the event, Mr Rukinama said the equipment provided by UNESCO would help alleviate the shortage of audio materials among school mini-media clubs in Addis Ababa. In conjunction with the media training, currently being organized, it will also support the development of the next generation of Ethiopian media professionals. He added that UNESCO will continue to support sustainable community media centres through upgrading the capacity of school mini-media clubs, taking into account that ‘Youth in Africa’ is one of UNESCO’s priorities.

    PFMA’s Director, Ato Getachew Simie, received the training equipment on behalf of the school mini-media clubs. He commended UNESCO for its generous support and called on school mini-media clubs to make a proper use of the equipment: to support educational activities and to raise awareness of the challenges that the youth are facing.

    The equipment will be used by the junior and secondary schools located in the capital: Lideta-Selam, Eyerusalem, Ethiopia-Tikidem, Finfinne, Yekatit 23, Dejazmach Zerai Deress, Tesfa Birhan, Hope-Enterprise, Ras-Amba and Misrak- Dil.

    10 school mini-media clubs will receive training in radio journalism, which will cover news and feature writing techniques and programme preparation, the convention on the rights of children, as well as traffic and road safety. The programme will also offer field trips to local radio, television and press institutions, and opportunities to interact with media professionals.

    It is expected that this training, together with other planned follow-up activities, will inspire the young mini-media to produce better quality programming that will inform students at the schools about issues directly impacting their lives. Furthermore, mentorship opportunities provided in the framework of the training could make some students choose careers in media. Some 15,000 students are expected to benefit from the programme.

  • - It remains to be seen whether the South African public broadcaster SABC, which faces a deficit of R800m, will be able to honour its commitment expressed recently not to cut jobs. The SABC may have to be bailed out by government for that not to happen.

    - Atec Systems and Technologies, a national IT and telecommunications service and infrastructure provider for the local property industry, has appointed Neotel as a telecoms provider to Kindlewood Estate. The fibre optic network has been up-and-running since January 2009. Neotel provided the estate with 600 phone numbers as well as an easily upgradable 1Mbps passive fibre network to 32 Atec switching kiosks on the estate. Atec will connect residences to these kiosks via copper. Triple play service was mentioned as a possible extension to the voice and Internet service.

regulation & policy

  • Ways of realising the 2009 plan of action of the Ministry of Communication are currently being examined by external and internal staff of the ministry.

    Minister of Communication, Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam in his "New-Deal" communication Policy, says Cameroon needs a pool of information to disseminate abroad. For this to be successful various regions in the country have to flood information to the capital city from where they will be transmitted abroad. But the big question many people are asking is just how information will be successfully relayed from all the nooks and crannies of Cameroon for the outside world. Within this backdrop, personnel from the central services of the Ministry of Communication, regional and divisional delegates of communication as well as communication heads of various ministries are meticulously elaborating on how to re-launch community radios, put in place an electronic news agency and a national press agency.

    After a two-day working session which ended last week, personnel of the Ministry of Communication will harmonise the plan of action between the central and external services so as to be sure of not only realising the 2009 plan of action of the ministry, but also ways of better disseminating information abroad.

    The ambition of the Ministry of Communication is to have community radios everywhere in Cameroon particularly in remote areas. With community radio stations, the Minister of Communication says communication can effectively flow between those in big cities and those in remote places. Together with UNESCO and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication, the Ministry of Communication wants to revamp community radio stations. That is why central and external staff of the Ministry of Communication will during their current meeting make analysis of the community radios that exist, redeploying as well as ways of rehabilitating them. Ways of creating multimedia centres and mobile community tele-centres will also be examined for this will give the possibility of a mobile collect of information within the community.

    Communication experts will also have to elaborate and put in place an electronic news agency. Given that the communication landscape is marked by innovations such as the Information and Communication Technologies, Communication Minister says an electronic news agency is vital in Cameroon. The electronic news agency will be divided into two aspects; the technological part which will be handled by technicians and the written part by journalists. While quoting as example, the successful set up of the website www.lepapeaucameroun, which was set-up by the Ministry of Communication during the Pope's visit, Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam says if Mincom personnel are determined, an electronic news agency in Cameroon will equally succeed. He said the ministry is about to acquire equipment that gears toward coming up with an electronic news agency. "In the nearest future a veritable electronic organ will be established in Cameroon", Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam said.

    The Minister of Communication also said putting in place a press agency is a matter of urgency for Cameroon needs to have a national press agency just like other countries. According to him, information from any press organs has some particularities and it is time for communication experts to respond to the needs of a veritable national press organ in Cameroon. The news agency will consist of two aspects, data collection that has to start right away. This will be followed by analysis and publication.

    All Africa

  • A crucial conference to lay the groundwork for the reform of Zimbabwe’s troubled media was cancelled at the last minute on Friday, dashing hopes the inclusive government is ready to tackle some of the key targets it set itself under the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

    The Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity said the conference, which would have run between Saturday and Sunday had been rescheduled after Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe lost her mother.

    But sources said Zanu PF loyalists had blocked the indaba over fears that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was moving too fast to reform the local media crippled by some of the most oppressive legislation in the world.

    “The death of Khupe’s mother came as a very convenient excuse,” said the source. “But there is a lot of resistance from the Zanu PF side and the old guard within the ministry itself.” The resistance, sources said, was also fuelled by topics that had been proposed for discussion such as the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

    Renowned media experts were also expected to lead discussions on the structure, role and management of public media in an emerging democracy and the state of the media in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe’s previous administration was accused of closing down the media space and using the public media to promote hate speech.

    Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba and Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Webster Shamu, have often attacked the private media over the way it covers issues. Some of the organisations that had been invited to the conference have clashed with government over its reluctance to guarantee freedom of expression.

    Deputy Media, Information and Publicity Minister, Jameson Timba, who was organising the event, insisted the cancellation was as a result of the bereavement. He said he was hopeful the conference would be held soon to tackle the pressing issues.

    The repeal of oppressive legislation and the freeing of the airwaves are among provisions of the GPA that analysts say would be key in measuring the success of the unity government.

    Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard chief executive officer, Raphael Khumalo, who was billed to chair one of the sessions, said he hoped the conference would be reconvened soon. “We look forward to having the conference because it is very crucial,” he said.

    Chair of the Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum, Iden Wetherell, said media reform was placed high on the agenda in political negotiations last year because effective democracy was impossible without the free expression of diverse views.

    “This is a litmus test of the new government’s effectiveness in allowing a free press and improving standards in its own sector, a test it seems determined to fail,” Wetherell said.

    The Zimbabwe Standard

technology & convergence

  • MultiChoice is branching out from satellite television with its new broadband rugby offering. It is branching out from satellite television with its new broadband rugby offering, but it's hardly a case of being ahead of the pack because there is no pack.

    It was almost 18 months ago that e.Sat, On Digital Media and Telkom Media were awarded their subscription broadcasting licences and the South African consumer is yet to see any of these players enter the market.

    e.Sat were the first to bail out, opting to sell its 24-hour news channel to the incumbent, MultiChoice. Telkom Media fell by the way side when its parent company Telkom pulled its funding for the start-up and On Digital Media have been conspicuously silent.

    So it appears that although these three main players were happy to make a huge song and dance before the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa in a bid to get their hands on the valuable licences, the broadcasting sector has seen no positive results.

    Fitting then that the first broadcaster to begin offering a broadband live streaming and video-on-demand product is MultiChoice. The product is called Rugby Zone (http://www.rugbyzone.com) and subscribers with a high- speed broadband package and a credit card can watch rugby streamed through their broadband for a mere R83 a month.

    While a DStv premium service will cost you R469 per month, or R5 628 for the year, an annual subscription to Rugby Zone will set you back US$99.99 (R1 000).

    For that you get all of the South African Rugby Union matches, which includes Super 14, Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and the Air New Zealand Cup. In addition you will get the Heineken Cup and selected American and Canadian rugby too.

    Subscribers can choose to watch the games live or at a convenient time for them as all the rugby is available in various video-on-demand formats.

    "It's broadcast live and on demand," says Ray Moore Supersport's head of New Media. "The beauty of the internet is you can cut it up into different packages, so we have a short highlights package, a condensed version of the game that is 26 minutes and a full version of the game, plus there is a download option."

    Moore says the service has been running from the United States over the past three years and servicing mainly American and Canadian audiences. But SuperSport decided to relocate the service to South Africa over the past six months.

    Rugby Zone has more than 6 500 subscribers, 55% of these are Americans and Canadians and the remaining 45% are from Europe and Asia. "South Africa and Africa are definitely not our target market," says Moore.

    "Broadband penetration here is way too low and all our hosting and encoding is done internationally because of the international bandwidth constraints that our country faces."

    But Moore says that the Seacom cable's imminent arrival in June this year could alter the status quo. "The point is that we need to be designing for the future and not the present and we are hoping that Seacom and other cables that come into the country will change the landscape significantly."

    But even if the broadband landscape does change and South Africa becomes a bigger market for Rugby Zone, Moore is adamant that offerings such as this will not eat into DStv's market share. "This is a complimentary service, it's not an either or service," says Moore.

    "Even with us using high bit rates it's quite a different broadcasting experience, the television broadcast is at several times the bitrate than the broadband viewing experience." The consumers will decide.

    Mail and Guardian

  • Saatchi & Saatchi has announced it has installed a High Definition Polycom video conferencing system, making it the first South African ad agency to adopt this technology. The system is aimed at increasing inter office creative collaboration both locally and globally, and improving client turnaround times.

    “We are now able to share data from our laptops with each other either between users in Cape Town and Johannesburg or with other global offices instantaneously,” says Stephan Carstens, group technology manager at Saatchi & Saatchi. “We can hook a laptop up to the video conferencing unit and play PowerPoint presentations, video clips, audio clips, or any other applications running on a user’s PC, which can be viewed live.”

    Carstens says that the major benefit provided by the equipment is improved team collaboration and a higher level of communication between the Cape Town and Johannesburg offices for teams working on clients such as Peugeot, P&G and Guinness. “Being able to get Cape Town and Johannesburg employees to collaborate on a more frequent and enhanced basis increases the creative output, and the speed at which creative processes and decisions are made,” he adds. “Clients also benefit as it speeds up the turnaround times for jobs.”

    For Saatchi & Saatchi Cape Town, the main benefit is inter office communication across the globe. “We constantly sit in conference calls with Saatchi & Saatchi and clients in London, about work that we are creating here in SA for Guinness and Malta Guinness,” says Carstens. “Great creative work comes from people collaborating, feeding off each other, and telephone conferencing puts the creative process at a huge disadvantage. We wanted technology that would virtually put our London colleagues and clients into the same room with us.”

    Carstens explains that another motivator was the fact that Saatchi & Saatchi believes in sustainable practices. “The installation fits in with our ‘blue’ philosophy spear headed by our new Saatchi & Saatchi Sustainability (S) division, which promotes sustainability as irresistible and our ‘greatest imaginable challenge’, a project to rally 1bn people to adopt sustainable practices,” he says.

    With regard to why Polycom was chosen, Carstens says that the Saatchi & Saatchi London office has also invested in a Polycom video conferencing system and that Polycom is considered the worldwide leader in Video Conferencing products providing a superior level of interoperability and full end to end solutions covering audio, video and infrastructure products.

    Kathea, Polycom’s exclusive SA distributor, installed the equipment in the Johannesburg and Cape Town Offices, and Polycom account manager, Luke Marthinusen says that the new High Definition technology far exceeds the experience delivered by traditional video conferencing.

    “Traditional video conferencing provided an acceptable experience, but the details of emotion, facial expression and colour were not conveyed very well,” he explains. “High Definition technology provided by the Polycom HDX range has moved the experience beyond video conferencing to Telepresence. The technology is so advanced and the quality so good that it allows a person to feel as if they were truly present at the remote location.”

    He points out that the High Definition systems that Saatchi & Saatchi have invested in are capable of 9 times the resolution that traditional systems produce. “In addition to the visual clarity; the new Polycom HDX systems offer High Definition audio, whereas the traditional systems produced sound similar to FM quality,” he adds.

    Screen Africa

    - Never a day seems to go by these days without some news emanating from beleaguered South African public broadcaster SABC. The latest is that Christine Qunta has resigned from the position of director and deputy chairperson of the board and all other structures at the SABC. The resignation will be with effect from 01 April 2009.

    - Respected creative talent, Brett Morris will be back with Draftfcb South Africa as from 1 April. Morris, who spent several years at the creative helm of Draftfcb Johannesburg before leaving the agency late in 2006 for a stint on the other side of the table as a client, has returned as Group Executive Creative Director for Draftfcb. He replaces Ashley Bacon, who committed to staying with the group for as long as it took to find a suitable replacement. Morris will assume overall responsibility for the Group’s creative product, including advertising, below-the-line, digital and design capabilities.

more

  • 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.

    According to Eric Kabera, the founder of the Rwanda Cinema Centre (RCC), 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. "It is a call for me to volunteer at the centre and I hope my contribution helps towards the success of this film centre. This year, the National Geographic has agreed to film here and many other producers are also interested," Bruneti said.

  • 2 films co-produced by Africalia are in the official selection for the documentary competition of the Festival des cinémas africains (African Film Festival) in Brussels.

    On this occasion, Africalia would like to invite you to a reception on Saturday the 4th of April at 7:00pm, at the Molière Theatre.

    Screening: Friday the 3rd of April at 5pm, at the Vendôme Cinema

    The Africalia award for the Best Documentary 2008 will be screened

    http://www.cinemasafricains.be/

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