SES launches new digital TV platform for West Africa – Will offer local control and buying space by channel
Whether it’s DTT or satellite, Africa will over the next three years become a multi-channel continent. The number of countries with a single Mr President TV channel with continue to decrease. This week satellite operator SES upped the stakes by launching a new digital TV platform for West Africa in partnership with Computer Warehouse Group in Nigeria.
SES has already been working with Multi TV in Ghana which has a Free-To-Air bouquet of 28 channels: 10 put together by Multi TV and 18 from other sources. With this many households, Multi TV has now got a reach that begins to be comparable to the existing analogue big players. Furthermore, the satellite beam covers 100% of the country, giving coverage to the 70%+ of Ghana’s population that has access to electricity.
SES will seek to repeat this success in Nigeria by offering an independent, local platform. Operating from SES’s ASTRA 2F satellite at 28.2 degrees East, this TV platform in Nigeria will be the country’s first free-to-air (FTA) DTH digital TV platform and provide the opportunity for broadcasters to reach satellite homes across West Africa that have their dishes pointed to 28.2 degrees East.
The platform will provide end-to-end contribution, ground and space services to local, regional, national and international TV broadcasters across West Africa. SES will be providing the space segment and specific ground services, while CWG will be managing the teleport services as an SES partner teleport operator, providing what it says will be high operational standards. The service will start in September 2014.
So what’s in it for West Africa broadcasters in general and Nigerian broadcasters in particular? There are cost-savings in terms of satellite contribution: if you’re not sending the signal to Europe or the USA then you can use microwave to reach the platform.
As importantly, it offers satellite space that is tailored to how broadcasters want to operate rather than on historic satellite practice. Instead of having to buy a full transponder from SES, you can simply buy as many channels as you need, offering significant cost and bandwidth efficiencies.
The geographic reach of the satellite offers interesting business model opportunities. If you’re a Nigerian broadcaster and you want to offer some of your channels across West Africa, this can be easily achieved.
There are already significant numbers of satellite decoders in the market and if these users get better and wider content, their numbers will grow. African consumers faced with the delays and confusions over the digital transition may well find the idea of a one-off payment for satellite channels very attractive.
It will all depend on there being the equivalent of the UK’s Freesat or Freeview platform with some significant profile in the market and a critical mass so that people hear their neighbours talking about what they have available. The danger for the established TV channels (currently on analogue) is that they find themselves caught between aggressive Pay TV operators at the bottom end of the pricing range (like Star Times and DStv’s Go TV) and the flood of new niche channels from wannabees once there are enough DTT decoders in the market.
Rwanda has just finished its digital transition with a hard stop (see news below), depriving 51,000 households of a TV signal. Larger countries like Nigeria will not be able to pull off this illusionist’s trick. 51,000 TV households without a signal in Rwanda may not lead a consumer revolt but tens of millions treated the same way in Nigeria certainly would. This means that the field of competition between DTT and satellite delivery will remain wide open for several years to come.
Theodore Asampong, Sales Director for the Western African region of SES told us:"We want to extend our channel neighborhood for Nigeria. And we are focused on Free-To-Air TV channels for the moment and will support them - in combination with our operational experiences from Europe - with any ambitions for any types of encrypted services in the future."
Digital Content Africa: Balancing Act's web TV channel Smart Monkey TV has launched a new e-letter called Digital Content Africa. On a fortnightly basis, it covers online film, music, publishing and services and applications. We have already produced 16 issues and these can be viewed on this link: Essential reading for those in broadcast or film. If you would like to subscribe, just send an email to email@example.com with Digital Content Africa in the title line.
Here are some examples of past issues below:
The Mobile Deal that is keeping Africans from having more music, film and TV on their mobiles
Ghanaian online platform Reel African announces the launch of first viewer votes feature film competition with cash prize
Video clip interviews this week:
Evert van der Veer, Head of Comedy Central, Africa on the South African comedy scene and programmes they make
"Balancing Act" is looking for sponsors to produce a free monthly e-letter in French on the ‘audiovisual sector in Africa’.
To date, there has been not a single source of information in French on this market segment.
The format of this newsletter would be similar to that produced in English, with possible minor modifications. The newsletter would then be posted on our site like on this link
Our information portal contains a powerful search engine that allows anybody to find items by keywords and dates easily.
Sponsors of the newsletter will be able to help shape the newsletter topics to serve its employees awareness, and would get advertising and moderated editorial spaces in our media.
If this proposal interests your company, please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org with French Broadcast in the title
Prisoners of War, a sci-fi thriller about humankind’s last stand against an alien invasion, starring former Bond Girl Bérénice Marlohe, is the latest Hollywood production set to shoot in South Africa. by Jan Cronje
French actress Marlohe gained international attention after starring opposite Daniel Craig in 2012’s Skyfall. Marlohe will be the second Bond Girl to have filmed in South Africa this year. Olga Kurylenko, who starred in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, finished shooting her new film Momentum in Cape Town last month.
In addition to Marlohe, production company Voltage Pictures announced that Prisoners of War will star Australian actor Alex Russell, who recently featured in the films Carrie and Chronicle. The latter was also shot in Cape Town.
The film will be set in a “war-ravaged African countryside”, where an US soldier (Russell) and a French foreign aid worker (Marlohe) team up to survive an alien onslaught.
Its unclear what the aliens will look like, but they could resemble large robots, based on hints by director Joe Miale, and a teaser poster for the film on the Voltage Pictures website shows a large robot.
“Alien war machines have been stomping around in my head for far too long – I’m eager to set them loose on the big screen and have them take over the world,” Miale has said.
Miale, who was in the country to scout locations in May including the Cape Town Film Studios complex and the Cradle of Humankind, posted on his Twitter account this week that he had arrived in Joburg from Los Angeles.
“Plotting and planning in South Africa”, he wrote next to a photo of a hand-drawn storyboard.
According to Miale’s website, other Prisoners of War producers include Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken. Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Pictures said in interview with Deadline that the film could be the start of a sci-fi franchise.
“Prisoners Of War is set in an imaginative and dangerous world, with a story that is both epic and intimate – much along the lines of District 9 or the first Terminator,” he said.
The film will be Miale’s first feature. He has directed music videos for groups including Junoon, That Noise and Woven, as well as commercials and TV episodes.
* In other local film news, South African producer Anton Ernst, who is co-producing The Big Shoe starring Twilight Saga star Kristen Stewart, tweeted this week that the film was about to go in pre-production.
The romantic comedy, co-starring Elizabeth Banks and Jim Sturgess, will be filmed in Cape Town later this year.
According to production company Bankside Films, the film follows a “creatively stifled shoe designer” – played by Sturgess – as he tries to revive his family shoe design company.
Source: Filmcontatct.com 28 July 2014
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has invited public comments on its ongoing review of local content regulations for television and radio, with the regulator saying local content makes a “vital contribution to democracy, nation building and development”.
ICASA last week announced the issuance of a Discussion Document, inviting stakeholders and members of the public to submit comments until September 10.
The regulator said the review of regulations for local content quotas on television and radio has been necessitated by technical changes and advances in the broadcasting sphere including the imminent digital migration.
“It is the authority’s view that through South African music and television programming, radio and television can make a vital contribution to democracy, nation building and development in South Africa; and that the local content quotas will go a long way in protecting and developing the country’s national cultures and identities, and promoting local industries,” said ICASA.
The regulator said prior to developing the discussion document a consulting company conducted an analysis of “cultural, economic and social benefits brought about by the preservation of South African programming regulations”, as well as a cost-benefit analysis, on behalf of ICASA.
Source: Humanipo 25 July 2014
The Durban FilmMart (DFM), which ran from 18 to 21 July in at the Elangeni hotel in Durban alongside the Durban International Film Festival, has awarded a number of promising African filmmakers with funding, access to international networks and festivals as well as mentorship and skills training.
The Best South African Film Project sponsored by Videovision Entertainment was awarded to Nyanga Sky, a film directed by Matthew Griffiths and produced by Rafeeqah Galant who will receive a R75,000 ($7,062) prize, a guarantee of release as well as marketing and distribution assistance from Videovision.
Hawa Hawaii, a Kenyan film directed by Amirah Tajdin and produced by Wafa Mohamed Tajdin, Bongiwe Selane, Helena Spring and Junaid Ahmed won the The CineMart award, which was sponsored by the International Film Festival Rotterdam's co-production market, as well as an award sponsored by the Festival des 3 Continents’ Produire au Sud. The accolades will afford filmmakers the opportunity to attend the Rotterdam Lab, a five-day workshop for emerging producers, and a week-long developmental workshop program that will grant them to better access European networks.
The South African film The Sound of Masks, directed by Kofi Zwana and produced by Sara Gouveia, received the Most Promising Documentary Pitch award from the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), which afforded the filmmakers an IDFA and Forum Pass.
Another South African film, Alex on Seventh, was awarded The New Cinema Network award, providing director Engelbert Phiri and producer Guy Bragge the opportunity to attend the New Cinema Network (NCN), the Rome Film Festival's co-production market.
In Search of African Duende: The Uganda Flamenco Project received a $2,500 (approximately R26,208) development prize from the East African documentary fund titled The Docubox award. The film is Ugandan, directed by Caroline Kamya and produced by Keren Cogan.
The Restless Talent Pitch award, backed by Restless Talent Management, was awarded to South African film Shattered. The award will offer director Philani Ndaba with a comprehensive one-year representation deal as well as mentorship and developmental assistance.
Rwandan film Home Expulsion which was directed and produced by Kayambi Musafiri will receive €5,000 (approximately R71,100) in prize money after winning the Organisation Internationale de Francophonie award, while South African film The Wound, directed by John Trengove and produced by Elias Ribeiro, will receive €6,000 (approximately R85,323) prize money for winning the ARTE France International Prize.
The Egyptian film Amal, directed by Mohamed Siam, was awarded the new AfriDocs award.
Visit the DFM website for more information.
Few months ago, May 27th to be precise, Africa’s leading entertainment and lifestyle network, EbonyLife TV made a partnership in the United Kingdom with the TV, Broadband & Phone operator TalkTalk.
EbonyLife TV, Africa’s first Global Black Entertainment and Lifestyle network, has being rated as the fastest rising channel on the DStv platform in less than one year of broadcast; at a time when our viewership has grown to over 15 million around Africa on the same platform and we are excited to bring the best of original African homegrown entertainment programming to the UK via the TalkTalk platform on EPG 478 (African TV Boost Package).
Our goal, simply put, is to be the preferred global platform for premium, original African entertainment and our viewers in the UK will be pleased to see this simple and timeless vision running passionately through all of our programmes – be it drama, reality, talk, comedy, factual, magazine, lifestyle or even news. Come with us, as we tell Africa’s story from a fresh, positive and engaging light.
You can now watch all of your favourite homegrown shows and programmes from EbonyLife TV for the first time in the UK, right at home on your TV sets via TalkTalk on EPG 478 on the African TV Boost package.
Source: Company Press Release
- AfricAvenir, in partnership with the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) presents the Namibian premiere of “Sodiq” by Adeyemi Michael, on Wednesday, 13. August 2014, 18h30, at the FNCC. The documentary “Sodiq” follows the lives Sodiq Adeojo who dreamed of becoming a doctor and Sylvester Akpalara, who had a promising career as an athlete ahead of him. Five years later (2012), Sodiq was convicted of murdering Sylvester and is now serving a 30-year jail sentence. How does a boy with the aspirations of becoming a doctor find himself on trial for murder...? A documentary by Adeyemi Michael
M-Net is set to break new ground as the South African pay-TV broadcaster goes full throttle forward into a new age of foreign television delivery. The almost 28-year-old M-Net has always had and secured premium television content but two factors the past half a decade, prompted - almost forced them to up the stakes dramatically and bring it to viewers sooner writes Thinus Ferreira
Firstly competitors edged in on the action and secondly illegal downloads prompted swift action.
That is why M-Net will redefine what a premium television experience means: great, premium content, but shown nearly instantaneously as well in an increasingly globalised world filled with spoilers, the internet and rabid binge-watching TV viewers.
Starting with the second season of the American drama Ray Donovan on 13 July, M-Net will show the exact same episode in South Africa just one hour later at 04:00 on the morning of Monday 14 July on linear television on DStv's channel 101.
Directly after the episode has shown at 04:00, the Ray Donovan episode will be available on MultiChoice's DStv Explora's Catch Up menu.
"That means that owners of these DStv decoders can watch it whenever they choose to, before it is screened in its dedicated primetime evening timeslot on the M-Net schedule. In the case of Ray Donovan, this will be on Tuesday 15 July at 21:30".
"This is fantastic news and a win-win for all our M-Net viewers," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.
"If you are suffering from fear of missing out, you can see what your favourite characters are up to as it happens, or you can catch-up at your convenience.
"In the past we've been able to simulcast or have delayed broadcasts of special events but having an international TV series within 24 hours is a first, and something we're very proud of.
"It shows that M-Net is always moving with the times in the world of entertainment, where, these days content can be delivered at breakneck speed," says Lombard.
M-Net does caution that because of the extraordinarily fast turn-around time, what it now calls "Express episodes" will not have a family track or hearing impaired titles.
Lifetime (DStv 131) has been launched on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform in South Africa and across Africa, upping the competition for female viewers and increasing the choices when it comes to drama, made-for-TV movies, scripted reality shows and factual entertainment programming..
The new channel from A+E Network UK will compete for DStv Premium bouquet viewers' attention along with channels like Discovery Networks International's TLC Entertainment and ID: Investigation Discovery, Universal Networks' E! Entertainment and even SABC3 undergoing a schedule and content revamp.
A+E Networks UK – a joint venture between A+E Networks and BskyB – already delivered the History and Crime+Investigation channels to DStv and the female focused channel now hopes to attract eyeballs to its mix of melodrama movies, spicy new reality shows like Dance Moms and Shahs of Sunset and well as dramas like Suits and Orphan Black.
A+E Networks UK plans on launching ad sales on Lifetime from October this year.
Lifetime will be investing in local reality television production in South Africa to beef up the channel's schedule from 2015, and is also looking to appoint local staff to help in the operational side of the channel as South Africa and the rest of the African continent’s pay-TV market continues to sizzle with rapid expansion driven by ongoing strong subscriber growth.
Lifetime launched on Tuesday evening at the same time as a media launch event for the channel took place at Shine Studios in Braamfontein.
"Our vision is to be the fastest-growing television portfolio in each of our markets and the launch of Lifetime brings us one step closer to achieving that vision here in Africa," Tom Davidson, the managing director of A+E Networks UK, told TV executives, TV critics and journalists, advertising executives and ad buyers Tuesday evening.
In a statement Davidson added that "the launch of Lifetime in Africa is exciting for us and marks a key moment in our continuing investment in this market," saying that he's "confident that Lifetime will appeal to African audiences".
Source: Chanel 24 23 July 2014
Jos city which pioneered colour television broadcasting in 1974 is set to achieve another first. Sunday Rogo, General Manager of Plateau Radio Television Corporation (PRTV) , the pilot station for Nigeria's analogue-digital switchover, states how the station is preparing for the task.
How do you feel being the boss of the broadcasting station to pioneer analogue to digital switchover in Nigeria?
I consider myself privileged to be the head of this organisation at a time that this broadcasting phenomenon is coming to Nigeria starting from here. I feel honoured having the responsibility to pioneer this very important migration from analogue to digital platform.
How will you describe the switchover process? What is digital as against analogue broadcasting?
Analogue television broadcasting is the way it has always been, without choices, while digital terrestrial broadcasting is bringing freshness, diversity, and improvement in delivery. Analogue transmission has issues concerning clarity of picture, sound quality, and so on, which digital transmission will change. We watch DSTV today and wish our own television were like that. The idea of digital television is to reach the standard, to achieve what is obtainable in cable television transmission. It is all about improvement.
Multiplicity of programmes is a frequently mentioned benefit of digital transmission. How will this work out and what specific other benefits would you highlight?
One of the aims of the analogue-digital switch is to enable more players to come into the industry. We are going to have more programmes and better content. We as a station will be required to run several programmes simultaneously, reason being that we are classified as free-to-air television as against pay television: cable television to which you have to subscribe. With digital TV you are no longer tied to PRTV, NTA, or AIT. Now, if you are not satisfied with these stations, the change you desire is just a button away.
How far has the PRTV progressed towards starting digital broadcasting?
We were privileged to host the Director General (DG) of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prince Emeka Mba with his team at the Rayfield station of the PRTV. We hosted him on a programme, after which we conducted him round our equipment and facilities.
He was really excited with our level of digital compliance, which was at that time about 75 to 80 percent. Now, the governor (Jonah Jang) has given more support to the station to ensure that we become 100 percent digital compliant as far as equipment and readiness are concerned.
What does 75, 80 per cent digital compliance mean?
The percentage is about what equipment you have. The equipment you basically need is the fibre optic, the major link between the main studio and the transmitters. Once you have that, any other thing simply follows. I am aware that there are studios that do not have fibre optic. We had it even before the NBC DG came on that visit. We have only a few things more to complete all we need. It's a gamut, an assortment of equipment. If you don't have all, you can't say you are complete. But what we have can enable a switchover, and that was why the ceremonial switchover (the formal switchover performed on June 30, 2014) went successfully.
That was ceremonial. When are you now going to switchover in terms of running your daily programmes digitally?
Now, there are concepts that need to be explained to viewers: you hear terms like switchover and switch-off and you wonder what is what. Switchover is the commencement of movement from analogue platform to digital platform. It's a process. What we are into now is the commencement of that process. A time will come when the NBC would have fully licensed national carriers, signal distributors. Once licensed and given areas of operation, they too will put certain infrastructure and equipment in place to be able to distribute signals.
At the moment we are told two signal distributors will be licensed. One, StarTimes, has almost got there. You know the synergy between NTA and StarTimes. Another signal distributor is about to be licensed. By the time these two are fully licensed, they are the ones that will now have a relationship with the TV stations. The stations will not be required to send out signals of their own as we now do. All the programmes you watch on PRTV now are coming from our own transmitters, but by the time these signal distributors take over fully, the contents we produce will be given to the signal distributors who will use their own facilities to distribute our signals to viewers.
So, the process of moving from analogue to digital is what you describe as switchover. By the time the entire process is completed, you now switch off (from analogue). When the NBC is convinced that all parts of this country have switched over, then there will be a switch-off. The (anticipated) time of the switch-off will be June 2015, but the deadline given to us here (in Jos as the pioneer switchover city) is the 1st of January 2015.
For us here, the switchover has started. We are now on StarTimes' platform, but because it is a process that has to be done systematically, the NBC has allowed what is called a dual regime, which means you still have your analogue transmission side by side the digital transmission, until you have fully switched over and your analogue can go completely for full digital transmission.
How are you preparing your viewers to use their usual analogue TV sets to view your digitalised signals when you start?
We have long realised that the programme can't succeed without intensive public sensitization and the state government has been working to sensitize the people. On our part in particular, we are working towards organising a roundtable where we will invite critical stakeholders to participate. It's going to be a life programme, both on television and radio, with experts from the National Broadcasting Corporation to speak and our lines open for members of the public to phone in and ask questions. Apart from that we believe that we should target particular institutions, e.g. religious organisations such as Christian Association of Nigeria and Jama'at Nasril Islam (JNI) through which messages will get to members. We will also be targeting traditional rulers and organisations like ALGON, who will pass the messages to the people in the grassroots.
How are you handling the need for your viewers with analogue TV sets to obtain set-top boxes to view your digitalised programmes?
In the same way that the NBC is licensing signal distributors, the Commission is licensing manufacturers of set-top boxes. The digital switch-over programme is opening up a vista of businesses, including set-top box manufacturing. The Federal Government is aware that buying set-top boxes could be difficult for many analogue TV set owners and is in consultation on how the set-top boxes will be made available to the average television users at reasonably reduced cost. I should point out for now that those who already have digital-compliant TV sets do not require set-top boxes. This is why the Federal Government is now strict against importation of analogue TV sets.
What has been the cost of preparing for digitalisation as the pilot station?
For us at the PRTV, we've always desired to upgrade our equipment, digitalisation or not. Most of our broadcast equipment and facilities were purchased in the regime of our revered late father, Chief Solomon Lar. He acquired and installed the equipment to set up the PTV at that time. Since then, nothing significant was done to upgrade the station until the government of Chief Joshua Dariye (1979-1983) when some equipment were brought in. Since the government of Dr Jonah Jang (2007 to date), a lot of equipment and facilities have been bought for PRTV. This government of Jonah Jang has expended well over N2.5 billion to upgrade PRTV not only for digital transmission but to generally standardise the operations of the station.
Jos city's historical background of being first to transmit colour TV signals in Nigeria is one of the attributes which NBC named as informing its choice of Jos to pioneer digital broadcasting. When did Jos pioneer colour television and what station achieved that feat?
That feat was achieved in the time of our first military governor, the late Commissioner of Police, Joseph Gomwalk, who governed the then Benue Plateau State (between 1966 and 1975). He ensured that the Benue Plateau Television, called BPTV, was the one that started colour television transmission way back in 1974. What was the BPTV was where NTA is now. The Federal Government took over the BPTV and made it NTV (Nigerian Television) which metamorphosed into NTA. The takeover of BPTV left the state with no television of its own, and especially during the regime of the late Solomon Lar, differences in party between the state (run by Solomon Lar's Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and the Federal Government (ruled by Shehu Shagari's National Party of Nigeria: NPN) was causing constant conflict. Programmes that the state would have wished to air would be suppressed by the Federal Government's NTV, so the governor felt since that was the case, let's have our own outfit. This was how Plateau Television (PTV) came to be, which is today PRTV.
South Africa will fail to meet the mid-2015 deadline, agreed to with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to switch off analogue terrestrial television broadcasts, according to an international research firm. Consulting and research firm Ovum says most sub-Saharan countries, including South Africa and Nigeria, will fail to meet the deadline they agreed to with the ITU, which forms part of the United Nations.
Countries in the region agreed to the deadline, after which the ITU will not protect their traditional analogue TV frequencies from cross-border interference.
In a media statement, Ovum blames a lack of awareness among the public that an analogue switch-off is impending and inadequate funds being made available by governments to roll out digital TV infrastructure. There is also an insufficient supply of set-top boxes in many of the markets.
South Africa has missed a number of self-imposed deadlines to introduce digital broadcasting. The country lost a year of the process after government vacillated over which standard to use for digital TV. More recently, a high-stakes battle between MultiChoice and e.tv over whether free-to-air digital set-top boxes should use a control system based on encryption has led to further significant delays.
Although most countries in the region are unlikely to meet the ITU deadline, the prevalent mindset among many governments and regulators is that the deadline must be met at all costs, says Ovum.
“As a consequence, numerous sub-Saharan TV markets are considering switching off analogue TV signals before the audience has transitioned to digital. This would mean many homes will lose TV reception, leading to advertisers switching away from TV and, in turn, a decline in TV advertising revenue.”
In Tanzania, the switchover process was pushed through recklessly, with damaging results, says Adam Thomas, Ovum’s lead analyst for global TV markets. “Thousands of homes lost their ability to watch TV and advertising revenue suffered as a result. But this mentality to rush the process persists, not least in Kenya, which seems intent on repeating the same mistakes.”
According to Ovum, there is an “understandable eagerness among regulators to raise revenue from the sale of the spectrum that will become available following analogue switch-off and which will, most likely, be snapped up by mobile operators”. This is leading to a “rushed switchover”, the firm says.
“While the sale of spectrum will benefit the mobile sector, regulators could harm the TV business if they act with undue haste to get their hands on potentially lucrative spectrum,” says Ovum Ismail Patel, who tracks media and entertainment across the Asian, Middle Eastern and African regions.
“African governments and regulators need to accept that the 2015 deadline will be missed and shift their focus on to getting the process completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Ovum believes that forcing through analogue switch-off is ultimately counter productive,” Patel says.
Ovum says initial digital TV launches are dominated by pay operators such as StarTimes and MultiChoice. “This has created a sector where the paid digital terrestrial television option represents an artificially high percentage of total homes using digital to receive TV. This is an issue because people will be less willing to transition from analogue to digital TV if they believe this will mean they have to start paying for TV. The result is that more than 90% of terrestrial TV was still analogue at the end of 2013,” the company says.
According to Thomas, the early focus on pay digital TV in Africa has created a misconception among the sub-Saharan audience that the technology is intrinsically a paid service.
“Once there is awareness that it can be received without payment, then free-to-air digital TV will be the overwhelming choice for most homes and the transition from analogue to digital will be better placed to proceed.”
- Over 51,000 people you won't be able to watch their favourite soap or news broadcasts beginning midnight today (July 31) as the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) will switch off their analogue TV sets as it concludes the migration from analogue transmission to digital broadcasting. "Out of those, 141,260 (70 per cent of all people with TV sets) homes have acquired decoders," the regulators said.
Globecast has announced that it has extended its reach in West Africa via a new PoP partnership with Senegalese telco Sonatel. Sonatel is headquartered in Dakar with the company serving additional local markets including Mali, Guinée Bissau and Guinée.
The PoP – which in this case is operating as an access (in/out) point to Globecast’s international network dedicated to the backhauling of audiovisual services – is located in Dakar. It’s physically connected via fibre to Globecast’s Parisian hub. The partnership is ideally positioned, from both business and technology perspectives, to attract local and international broadcasters or production centres that need to backhaul signals to or from Senegal for onwards cable, MMDS, satellite or OTT distribution.
Lionel Antoine, Globecast’s African Sales Manager, says, “This is an important step in increasing our reach in West Africa, facilitating the easy and cost-effective distribution of content. It allows us to connect customers directly via fibre at their Senegalese premises without any investment in an earth station or in space segment, which until now has been used for backhaul from Senegal. These economic and technical benefits can then be passed on to our customers.”
Globecast is providing its Platinum 1+1 service, providing a high level of resiliency by transmitting signals twice through two diverse routes, offering additional security and service availability.
Source: Company Press Release 17 July 2014
“If content is king, then distribution is queen,” says Pierre van der Hoven, founder and CEO of Tuluntulu, the recently launched low-bandwidth mobile streaming platform.
One of the main obstacles faced by the creators of content in South Africa is the difficulty they face in getting their content onto a public platform. Television and cinema distribution provide limited options. One of the secrets to the success of the Nigerian film industry, for example, is that it has few or no barriers to content distribution. It has several options in this regard, from straight-to-DVD business models to those that rely on the country’s myriad television platforms, to the growing use of over-the-top streaming. South Africans have far fewer options.
Developing online media could offer a solution but South Africa’s ongoing broadband shortage makes this difficult too. Traditional solutions to this problem consist of various proposals to increase broadband infrastructure – “build bigger highways”. While this is essential, it is also the more expensive and time- consuming option. Content distribution platforms can be more quickly expanded, Van der Hoven says, extending the highways metaphor, by using the infrastructure already in place and just building smaller cars. South Africa may not have an efficient high-bandwidth network just yet but it has fairly abundant coverage of low-bandwidth mobile networks such as EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution).
Tuluntulu, the system developed by Van der Hoven and his team, makes use of this infrastructure to provide new channels of content distribution in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
The Tuluntulu app, which was launched in June, was developed as an answer to the question of how to distribute content on a congested, low-bandwidth network. At the cost of video and audio quality – not significant considerations on a mobile platform anyway, and certainly not when content is the main consideration – Tuluntulu will provide a place for content creators to broadcast their material to a receptive audience.
As it currently stands, the app costs the end user nothing except for the data used when downloading on a mobile network – on a WiFi network, even this does not apply. The nature of the app and the codec used for the streaming of content means that it uses a minimum of data, making it very cost effective for consumers. In this way, the plan is to build up the number of users to the extent that the platform becomes a viable attraction for advertisers.
The app launched with 10 mobile TV channels, including Al Jazeera, ANN7, and MindSet Learn, as well as several new channels devised by the Tuluntulu team, some offering an Africa focus, others dedicated to niche concerns such as fashion, hunting and adventure sports. Other channels offer comedy and music. The bouquet of channels attached to the app is set to grow.
Van der Hoven says that one of the main benefits of the app, both for consumers and creatives, is that it goes some way towards breaking down barriers to content. Affordable to people on both ends of the spectrum, it offers something like the mobile equivalent to public access television. The channels developed by Tuluntulu will need a flow of new content to feed them and this will open up opportunities for content developers who have not been able to make use of traditional broadcasting methods.
To see Pierre Van der Hoven talking about Tuluntulu, click on the link here:
Source: Screen Africa 2 July 2014
An episode of Shuga, a popular soap opera set in Kenya, is playing on a screen at the offices of iRoko TV - an online platform commonly dubbed the "Netflix of Africa".
In a corner of the room, facing the rest of the operation and separated by a glass partition, sits Jason Njoku, the company's founder.
Born and brought up in London, Mr Njoku is now Lagos-based and building what is proving to be a revolutionary tool, as Nollywood - Nigeria's Hollywood - moves on from DVD to digital platforms.
Since 2011, iRokoTV has racked up millions of views, its founder says, "connecting African films with fans globally" with its huge online catalogue.
The company pays filmmakers about $10,000 (£5,900) to $25,000 for the digital rights to stream their content for a period of time.
In fact, Jason Njoku says the group spends $3m-$4m a year on licensing and producing content, hoping to make back the money in two to three years.
Subscribers pay a monthly fee of $8 with unlimited access to movies from around Africa on the iRoko TV platform, although most productions come from Nigeria and Ghana.
"There's always that star power thing…similar to Hollywood, similar to Bollywood, similar to any content industry around the world," says Mr Njoku.
"You look at the stars, you look at the director…super important…you also look at the quality of the actual movies themselves, and we try to sync that with the audience, so, every ten movies we view, we only buy one or two of them."
It is a model that not many would have thought about a few years ago, but today iRoko's success has seen the emergence of other competitors.
One, Pana TV, secured the rights to the acclaimed film Half Of A Yellow Sun, which stars Hollywood's Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.
The industry is growing, and is said to be a major employer in Nigeria, contributing to 1.4% of the country's GDP.
Lights, camera, action
In a quiet Lagos suburb, three dozen people, most of them in their twenties and thirties, crowd a room in silence, listening to a passionate prayer led by a man in the centre.
As soon as he is done, they disperse and work on the film set begins.
Obi Emelonye Director's chair: Obi Emelonye on the set for Nollywood film series The Calabash in Lagos
This is the making of The Calabash, an ambitious 100-episode film series that lawyer-turned-filmmaker Obi Emelonye hopes to get on-screen, including on iRokoTV, before the end of the year.
"It's a very tasking, almost stupid episode to film 100 episodes in a go without $1bn, but we can show that with a good story, with dedication, with a committed cast and crew, with a bit of luck, you can achieve great things," says Mr Emelonye, with a smile. A power cut darkens the room and filming pauses.
In less than a minute a generator outside the building drones into life, the lights come back on, and production continues almost as if nothing happened.
Nigerian Film Market Shop till you drop: Nollywood movies are sold as DVDs in shops and markets across the country
The challenges on set are evident, but when the production is complete there are even greater challenges getting the films out to the viewers while still paying the filmmakers.
Nigeria's film industry churns out some 50 films a week, surpassed only by India's Bollywood. “DVD is dying out, and since we are still dependent on DVD then our industry suffers”
Most of these are released on DVD, and sold cheaply on the streets around Nigeria, although the industry has now garnered a huge following across Africa and among Afro-Caribbean communities around the world. But this is not necessarily good news for the filmmakers.
This nation of 160 million people only has about 14 functional cinemas, which mostly screen Hollywood blockbusters.
Weaving one's way through a sea of human traffic in the Idumota section of Lagos Island, one of the older parts of the city, you see a series of shops peppered with posters of Nollywood titles like Funke The Illiterate and Brazil Return.
The DVD market is still thriving and there's hardly a better example of this than in Idumota.
"Some films sell out very quickly… as soon as people know who the actor is they come and buy the copies," says Kelechi Kene, a vendor.
He adds that although he has heard of digital platforms like iRoko, they do not pose any threat to businesses like his which sell films on DVD.
Filmmakers fear that outlets like these are not properly regulated and so pirates can use them to make a fortune.
Despite the growth and success of digital innovation observers feel the sector is far from achieving its potential without proper legislation on rights and distribution.
“We need to be able to buy these films online because the filmmakers need to make their money back”
"Outlets like iRokoTV, Pana TV and Ibaka TV are only offering streaming services," says Ayeni Adekunle, editor-in-chief of Nigeria Entertainment Today.
"We need to be able to buy these films online because the filmmakers need to make their money back and they are not doing that right now. Having said that, we see these platforms going beyond hosting films to now creating their own content, which is a good thing"
Connectivity is still a major problem for many viewers, with erratic internet connections that are still not affordable for most Nollywood fans.
Pay TV is also taking a large share of the viewership.
Africa Magic, for example, now has several channels that air African content including productions in Yoruba, Hausa and Swahili.
Despite their popularity, iRoko's Jason Njoku doesn't see them as competition.
"We have films that people can watch whenever they feel like, and pause, rewind or skip," he says.
"You can't do that with TV and that's why we feel there's so much to achieve here."
Source: BBC Lagos 26 July 2014
- The Elgeyo Marakwet county government in Kenya will launch a TV and radio station to educate the public on development. Governor Alex Tolgos announced the plan as the county launched its digital operations
A new government film-funding project has been announced at the Durban International Film Festival.
Six films a year will be created by black directors through the new transformation fund, which is earmarked to rise to ten films annually after the first three years.
“This is just the beginning. We are hoping to get to a point where we are making 30 or 40 films a year,” said Basil Ford, head of the Media and Motion Picture Business Unit at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) at a brunch at the Elangeni Hotel this morning.
The announcement was made by the IDC and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF).
“The IDC has agreed to change the way it does business for this project. We will be bringing costs down,” said the NFVF’s head of production and development, Clarence Hamilton. “We will make it simpler and faster to make films.”
The department of trade and industry’s Nelly Molokoane shared the stage in support of the initiative.
The new production model – called the Emerging Black Filmmakers Transformation Fund – aims to radically reduce paperwork and legal fees for film makers, offering template documents to speed up the process.
Filmmakers will no longer need to raise any of their own funds nor prove the commercial viability of their projects.
This will be done by the fund, which aims to recoup its investments to become sustainable.
Black filmmakers will effectively just have to sign on the dotted line and get on with the business of writing and directing films, with mentorship from the fund.
The films have to be made within a budget of R5 million and 51% of the production must be black-owned.
This doesn’t bar white producers from the process, it just limits their ownership.
Ford explained that the initiative began years ago, growing out of discussions around a low-budget film pilot project.
R5 million is about the average budget of a South African film at present and is not considered particularly low. But it excludes more ambitious projects – to the frustration of some of the country’s more established black filmmakers.
Traditionally the IDC has battled to justify increased budgets for black films because of a lack of cinemas in townships and hence small black audiences.
After the announcement, experts seemed to agree that the project could be good news for the industry – which is under pressure to transform. It does, however, mean that a certain kind of film will be taking precedence in future, one that can be made for R5 million.
Comedian and producer David Kau made a plea to the panel and to the industry to look beyond only distributing films in cinemas, but to consider DVD sales and self-distribution to win audiences and justify making money to pay back state investment in films.
The cliché most often attached to the Labia is that walking into its dark interior is like "stepping into a bygone era". The experience is certainly nothing like the slick, soulless operations of the major multiplexes. Tickets are purchased from an old wooden booth. A bar will serve you a beer or glass of wine to take inside one of the cinema’s four screens. Most of the staff have been clipping tickets and loading up projection reels here for well over two decades.
The seats could be more comfortable; the sound quality more distinct. But the Labia’s patrons overlook these aspects in favour of the slightly dishevelled romance of an establishment which turned 65 this year.
The story goes that the Labia’s premises started life as a ballroom for what was once the Italian embassy next door, bearing the sign of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome and Benito Mussolini’s hallmark.
"It’s quite a sketchy history," admitted owner Ludi Kraus. "I’m not quite sure whether everything is factual."
What is beyond doubt, because it is commemorated with a plaque on the wall to this day, is that the building was converted into a theatre by Italian aristocrats the Labia family, and declared open as a place for the performing arts by Princess Labia in May 1949. Count Natale Labia – later granted the title of prince – was a diplomat who was dispatched to South Africa in 1917, and prospered under Mussolini’s regime, though he allegedly tried to talk Mussolini out of invading Abyssinia.
Part of the reason why the family built the Labia Theatre, the Mail & Guardian reported a few years ago, was out of gratitude to the South African government at not detaining them during the second world war.
It is through its Italian roots that the cinema acquired its unusual name. Kraus concedes that it raises eyebrows, but says the name is “too much part of it” to consider changing.
"I don’t know if South Africans catch the connotations that quickly, maybe because they’re less … medically-minded," Kraus says "visitors tend to be far more alert. Some come in here expecting it to be a porn cinema." He joked that a friend once suggested naming two screens the majora and minora.
Arts journalist Bruno Morphet traced the history of the Labia to commemorate its 60th birthday, writing that the original theatre played host to well-known South African playwrights until the mid 70s. At this point, a film distributor used the premises for a once-off avantgarde film festival, which proved such a success that the Labia developed a new purpose as a dedicated cinema.
Critic Trevor Steele Taylor arranged the weekly film roster, where "you could expect to find anything from Fassbinder to the Marx Brothers being offered on the elaborate hand-printed programmes", Morphet wrote. As you’d expect from any independent cinema worth its salt during the apartheid years, there were tussles with the Film and Publications Control Board: Steele Taylor was once removed by police during a screening of The War Is Over, a film about the Spanish communist revolution.
Kraus took it over in 1989, when the cinema had already seen better days. "It was still quite popular, which was amazing because it was dark, it was dingy, it was dirty," Kraus recalls.
Kraus was no stranger to the world of the cinema: his father had owned a movie house in Namibia. He used a crane to bring the movie screen forward and installed better projectors. A rehearsal room upstairs became a second screen, with a third and fourth following.
Kraus says it took him 21 years to make the Labia work, maintaining the cinema’s reputation for screening independent films and hosting small film festivals, while also bringing in some bigger commercial hits to keep the box office ticking over. "The biggest change has been that the audience has got younger in the last three years,” he says. "It’s become a cooler place. When I programme now I have to take that into account."
Over the past years, the cinema has seen the likes of John Cleese, Matt Damon, Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell pop in for a screening. The Western Cape premier, Helen Zille, likes the odd Labia film too.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Last year the Labia had to close its two separate screens on Cape Town’s Kloof street after the building’s new owners decided to discontinue them. Kraus says he has given up on any attempt to expand beyond the Orange street premises. In 2012, the cinema was embroiled in controversy over Kraus’s decision not to screen a pro-Palestinian film because he "didn’t want to get involved in politics", which led to a call to boycott the cinema.
Today Kraus stands by that decision, though he calls the ensuing fracas the “most unpleasant experience of my life”. He claims that the cinema did not experience a drop in support as a result of it.
But today the Labia faces its biggest challenge to date: the fact that the cinema has to convert its operations to digital. The necessary components for the Labia’s old equipment are no longer available. Film distributors have just stopped providing movies on celluloid. British costume drama Belle, currently showing at the cinema (and starring half-South African Gugu Mbatha-Raw), is the last film Kraus can expect to receive on celluloid. The Labia has to adapt or die – but the costs are astronomical. Labia south Africa Going digital is the Labia's biggest challenge to date.
"If you want to play, you need the equipment," Kraus says. "There is no choice. We’re in the penalty shootout phase."
As with many other ventures these days, the cinema is turning to crowdfunding as a possible solution, using local startup Thundafund. Launched in June last year, the website aims to replicate the success of international models like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter (on which an enterprising young man recently raised over $40,000 to make a potato salad).
The Labia is aiming to raise R150,000, to go firstly towards digital projectors and renovations to fit them, but also towards a general rejuvenation of the cinema. The range of rewards that donors will receive in exchange will only be unveiled on Thursday, but Kraus hints that they will include everything from free move tickets to naming rights on the cinema screens.
Young people in Swaziland are turning to social media sites such as Facebook because it allows them to enjoy 'the fundamental rights to freedom of expression' that is denied to them elsewhere in the kingdom, a research report has found.
They also bypass mainstream media such as television, radio and newspapers in favour of social media, the report jointly published by the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said.
In Swaziland media are heavy censored, with nearly all broadcast media under direct state control and one of only two daily newspaper groups is in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules the kingdom as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.
The report called Youth Usage of Social media in Swaziland concluded, 'The young people have welcomed the emergence of the social media because, among others, it affords them an opportunity not only to inter-act but also enjoy the fundamental right to freedom of expression provided in Section 24 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland adopted in 2005.
'Much to the delight of the young social media users, the social media has changed the face of the media landscape by making information sharing 'easier, faster and quicker.
'They can now easily and freely bypass the severely censored mainstream media to access, produce, distribute and exchange information and ideas.
'More importantly, the social media has afforded the young people an opportunity to speak in their own voices, not mediated by the mainstream media.'
It added, 'They can use this empowering force as a source of information relevant to their social lives. It has become their reliable source of educational, social, political, economic and cultural information.'
The research surveyed 100 people aged between 10 and 24 years old in all four regions of Swaziland. It found the most popular social media sites were Facebook, Whatsapp and Mxit.
The report also said many young people were concerned about 'immorality', including 'the posting of pornographic materials, vulgar language, seditious information and character assassination'.
- The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has called for extensive consultations on Puntland’s draft media law to ensure the legislation is consistent with provisional constitution of Somalia and international standards of freedom of expression.
Hand in hand with the British system integrator VSC Design, VSN have deployed the migration to HD of TV Zimbo at their new facilities and launched the new system to Air.
TV Zimbo is the first private channel in Angola, part of the Medianova group, that broadcasts nationwide over terrestrial and cable in the TV Cabo platform and internationally via satellite on the DStv and Zap platforms. The solution provided powers up the interoperability of VSN modules through the VSNSPIDER framework, enabling communication between different solutions and fast implementation of defined business processes to optimize the workflows.
The turnkey solution provided includes the upgrade of the MCR baseband equipment to HD. The automation system, VSNMULTICOM PLAY, interfaces the new Miranda Imagestore and PresStation for channel branding together with the new NVISION 9000 router control, facilitating the automation for the linear distribution.
VSNNEWS solution is covering the complete Newsroom and studio production. This solution includes the VSNWIRES module allowing the reception of news wires from the agencies together with the associated video media. The newsroom is composed of thirty journalists’ and six craft editors. With the production tools module the Grass Valley® EDIUS Pro projects in the EMC ISILON production storage are linked to the news stories as well as the management of footage from XDCAM or P2 cards via the MAM system.
Furthermore, the tight integration of the Archive allows journalist to work over the PROXY while hi-res media is being automatically moved to be available for the craft editors, enriching the stories while increasing near-line storage performance for a newsroom environment. The Twitter and Youtube integrations are also extending TV Zimbo’s publishing capabilities beyond the country boundaries.
The media asset management and archive, based on VSNEXPLORER, provide tracking and management of the contents in all available storages thanks to VSNSTORAGE MANAGER. The occupation of all the online storages is set to a certain threshold for best performance, having set deletion rules based on broadcast scheduling. Content is archived to a Qualstar LTO library after the validation process and media is also moved to online storages automatically based on the scheduling for the next days.
At last, the complete system has been designed to avoid single points of failure with frame accurate change-over for 24x7 uninterrupted operation.
MultiChoice will soon begin selling a Wi-Fi dongle, which users of its Explora PVR will be able to use to access a range of online services, including video on demand.
MultiChoice, the owner and operator of pay-television service DStv, intends opening a data pipe on its Explora personal video recorder (PVR) decoder this year, paving the way for consumers to be able to watch on-demand services via the Internet.
Group CEO for broadcast technology Gerdus van Eeden says MultiChoice is developing a Wi-Fi dongle, which subscribers will be able to connect to the Ethernet port on the company’s high-end Explora PVRs, with the idea that they will be able to use it to watch the company’s online video-on-demand (VOD) services.
Until now, Explora users have only been able to use the PVR to watch on-demand and catch-up services pushed via satellite to the machine’s hard drive. This has meant that the available material has been limited by the size of the storage capacity of the decoder.
Explora-remote-280Van Eeden says one of the first services that will be enabled through the Wi-Fi dongle will allow consumers to set recordings from a smartphone or tablet application, or from the Web. This will allow people to record shows when they’re away from home. It will also allow viewers to rent BoxOffice movies without first having to send a long string of characters to MultiChoice via an SMS.
Once those services are deployed, the Explora become what Van Eeden calls an “OTT device” — offering “over the top” services like video on demand to DStv users. He says it’s possible this service could still be launched before the end of the year.
MultiChoice plans to launch the online VOD service on the Explora PVR despite that fact that South Africa has poorly developed fixed-line broadband infrastructure. “Our addressable market is small, but we know we have to do it,” Van Eeden says.
Though no pricing for the Wi-Fi dongle is available yet, he says it “won’t be an expensive device”, priced similarly to most Wi-Fi dongles.
Meanwhile, MultiChoice has provided more details behind its decision to commission a new satellite from Intelsat. Intelsat 36, which will be rechristened Intelsat 20B, is meant mainly as a backup to Intelsat 20 (in future to be called Intelsat 20A), which the pay-TV operator began using in 2012. The additional capacity will also allow MultiChoice to expand the number of channels it offers its subscribers and to launch more channels in high-definition format, says Van Eeden.
Intelsat 20A and 20B will sit in roughly the same position in space, meaning existing DStv dish installations will receive signals from both without the need for any modifications.
“It doesn’t even know the transmission is coming from two separate satellites,” Van Eeden says.
He says MultiChoice is already beginning to run out of capacity on Intelsat 20A, but the main reason for commissioning it is for backup purposes. “[Intelsat 20A] is a single point of failure.”
If satellite 20A fails for some reason, it could take up to 10 days to relocate a backup satellite from another orbital position. “We decided to invest heavily and get a co-located satellite.”
Both satellites have a lifespan of 20 years. Intelsat 20B will be launched in the second half of 2016.
Important events in the African broadcast, film and TV sector
Sept 25 - Oct 1 2014
Lights, Camera, Africa! Film Festival
The Lights, Camera, Africa! Film Festival, created by arts and culture centre The Life House, takes place at multiple venues in Lagos, Nigeria from 25 September to 1 October. The theme for the 2014 edition will be Legacy, and will highlight perspectives of the diverse tradition of filmmaking in Africa. By partnering with the New York-based African Film Festival, the British Council, Alliance Francaise, the Goethe-Institut and The Ford Foundation as well as developing relationships with industry experts such as Nadia Denton, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, Tunde Kelani, Femi Odugbemi and Chika Anadu, the festival aims to offer attendees a diverse and valuable showcase of African cinema.
Email The Life House, email@example.com, for more information.
Oct 2014 (dates tba)
11th. African Film Festival of Cordoba – FCAT
Venue: Cordoba, Spain
The main African film fest in Spain.
5 to 7 Nov 2014
DISCOP AFRICA 2014
Venue: Johannesburg, RSA
The biggest African market & creative forum for TV programmes and audiovisual content trade: not to miss.
11th-13th November 2014
Venue: Cape Town Convention Centre (picture below), South Africa
AfricaCast will continue to bring together the growing number of Sub-Saharan Africa’s major broadcasters, content owners, telcos, investors, cable companies and pay TV providers. AfricaCom is the largest telecoms and IT event in Africa.
exact dates tba, Novembre 2014
Film Africa 2014
Venue: London, UK.
The UK’s largest annual festival of African cinema and culture. Film Africa is the Royal African Society’s annual festival celebrating the best African cinema from across the continent. Every year, Film Africa brings London audiences a core programme of fiction and documentary films alongside a vibrant series of accompanying events, including director Q&As, panel discussions, talks, workshops, master classes, family activities and Film Africa LIVE! music nights.
exact dates tba, Novembre 2014
Kenya International Film Festival 2014 (KIFF)
15 to 17 July 2015
Mediatech Africa 2013
Venue: Coca-Cola Dome in Northgate, Johannesburg, South Africa
The biennial advanced technology trade show has positioned itself as the largest and most prestigious event of its kind in Africa for the media and entertainment industries.
Honoring a Filmmaker in the Shadow of Apartheid
Unknown among his fellow white South Africans, Tonie van der Merwe was the most popular filmmaker among black audiences in the 1970s and ’80s. He churned out about 400 movies under an apartheid subsidy system established to produce movies exclusively for blacks — with the right political and moral content. In fact, he helped create the system.
With story lines often lifted from Hollywood, his movies drew throngs in black townships across the country. To those in the anti-apartheid movement familiar with his work, he was dismissed as a backer of white-minority rule.
And so, with apartheid now gone for a generation, Mr. van der Merwe’s resurgence has surprised many.
In April, the national broadcaster aired five of his movies. Last week, the Durban International Film Festival showcased his first work, “Joe Bullet,” a blaxploitation-inspired story that was South Africa’s first film with an all-black cast.
Then, in a ceremony last week, the black-led provincial government here named him one of four “heroes and legends,” awarding him his first prize ever. In his acceptance speech, wearing a tuxedo for the first time in three decades, he was more emotional than at his own parents’ funerals, said Hettie van der Merwe, his wife of 52 years.
Tonie van der Merwe was the most popular filmmaker among black audiences in the 1970s and 1980s. He churned out some 400 movies including “Joe Bullet,” a blaxploitation-inspired film.
After his speech, gripping a statuette in one hand and a double brandy and Coke in the other, he said: “Without being racist, I thought a white guy won’t easily win a prize, but I was wrong. I thought anything before the 1990s is not easily recognized by the present government. We didn’t exist. We didn’t do anything.”
Perhaps the rehabilitation of Mr. van der Merwe, 74, and his oeuvre speaks to a healthy willingness to start recognizing the complexities of the country’s apartheid past, if not in the realm of politics, then at least in the arts. Staunch apartheid fighters, like the author Nadine Gordimer, who died recently, have long been lionized. Mr. van der Merwe’s case is more ambiguous. He never opposed apartheid. He was disappointed that the end of apartheid left no specially reserved homeland for whites.
But his movies began the careers of many black actors and nurtured a generation of black technicians and production hands. They portrayed the lives of blacks, created black heroes and brought rare entertainment to bleak townships.
“We’re beginning to have sufficient distance from that old black-versus-white grand narrative to re-examine old documents like these films,” said Keyan Tomaselli, who was a critic of the apartheid government’s cultural policies.
Still, Mr. Tomaselli, also named a “hero and legend,” added: “Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever share a stage with him. Whether or not he was a supporter of apartheid, that’s the way we saw him.”
Mr. van der Merwe had been the owner of a successful construction company when he went into the movies in 1970. As he showed Hollywood movies to his 200 black workers on Saturday nights, he saw a business opportunity. The government had subsidized films for white South Africans since the 1950s under a so-called A-scheme, but there were no domestic movies for the black majority.
“You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that was the market of the future,” Mr. van der Merwe said.
Using his own money, as well as his own car, tractors and airplane as production props, he made “Joe Bullet,” an action movie about corruption in a soccer league. Joe Bullet, a cross between John Shaft and James Bond, fights evil with his intelligence, guns and karate chops; he attracts the affections of a nightclub singer with his suaveness and aloofness.
“Tonie was down to earth and very helpful,” said Abigail Kubeka, 73, who played the singer and went on to have a long career in entertainment. “You know, some of these directors are very arrogant. Maybe he knew we were all starters, amateurs.”
Released at the height of apartheid in 1972, the movie was banned after only two showings. Government censors were made uncomfortable by the all-black cast and certain elements of the story, like the hero’s use of a sports car and a gun.
“In those days, it was taboo for a black man to have a firearm,” Mr. van der Merwe said. “Other stupid things, like they dress smartly, drive smart cars, stayed in nice places, enjoyed their drinks.”
Instead of being discouraged, he again sensed opportunity. Under apartheid, blacks were made to live in homelands and were restricted in the cities. Mr. van der Merwe and another filmmaker successfully lobbied the government to create a subsidy for films for blacks, called the B-scheme. Over the next two decades, a couple of dozen filmmakers made 1,600 B-scheme movies, most hewing to the government message that blacks belonged in their homelands and that, if they lived in urban areas, they should behave.
Mr. van der Merwe was less ideological than other B-scheme filmmakers, who explicitly promoted the “apartheid worldview and policies,” said Gairoonisa Paleker, a scholar at the University of Pretoria who has written about the B-scheme.
“But his films didn’t in any way critique or raise questions about the apartheid system or policies,” she said. “There’s also complicity through silence.”
None of Mr. van der Merwe’s supporters say he sought to change South Africa. But for the first time, “Joe Bullet” and his other films “showed black people as real human beings with interior lives,” said Peter Machen, manager of the Durban film festival.
Innocent Gumede, who has also been known professionally as Popo Gumede, starred in many of Mr. van der Merwe’s movies. Mr. Gumede said the films stretched the confines of apartheid.
“There were a lot of unintended consequences,” said Mr. Gumede, 52, who went to work in television after the end of apartheid and now works in the mining industry. “With the blacks, we started to be stars. If white people act in movies, it’s because they’re gods. They’re heroes while we’re small, we’re just black. Then, all of a sudden, blacks are also heroes. Hey, look! You know, we can now dream.”
The movies, he said, had to have the correct moral message. “But we could get there and accomplish what you, Tonie, or the government wanted,” he said. “We had our own game within the game.”
“Tonie is an icon that happened by accident,” Mr. Gumede added.
Mr. van der Merwe said that he had no political notions, but that he mainly just wanted to make movies. “It was great, anyway, while it lasted,” he said of the B-scheme, which ended in the final years of apartheid.
He started working in the hotel industry. He lost a lot of money in horse racing.
He languished in obscurity until he came to the attention of Benjamin Cowley, the chief executive of Gravel Road Entertainment, a Cape Town movie production company. Mr. Cowley immediately realized the value of the B-scheme movies and has digitally restored 25 of them so far.
In a black township near here, a Sunday screening of “Joe Bullet” drew a few dozen boys and teenagers, South Africa’s “born-free” generation. They whistled and applauded at the end.
Thulani Mtolo, 23, a film student, said he liked the movie because it “talks about how you will never be successful while you are doing crime.”
“Sooner or later,” he said, “whatever you do will catch up with you.”
He added: “Joe Bullet was a great guy because he was able to defend himself. He didn’t have any pride. He was able to do all good things. He wasn’t greedy. He was able to build a team. He had peace inside him, so he was able to conquer.”
M-Net to start M-Net Film and TV Academy
The premium South African and African pay-television brand M-Net is set to create and establish the M-Net Film and TV Academy in 2015 which will aim to expose, train and raise up the next generation of talented content makers within South Africa's vibrant and growing film and television industry. by Thinus Ferreira
The announcement of the creation of an M-Net Film and TV Academy was made by Yolisa Phahle, the new M-Net South Africa CEO, in front of a crowd of 400 high profile TV executives, TV talent, government and regulatory officials and guilds and union representatives at M-Net and MultiChoice's Galaxy of Stars celebration event held on Saturday evening.
Phahle's announcement of the creation of an M-Net Film and Television Academy was met with spontaneous and rapturous applause from the South African film and TV industry power players attending the exclusive, by invitation only, Gallagher Estate event.
The South African pay-TV broadcaster's growing collection of premium TV channels are seen in South Africa and across the African continent on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform and its digital terrestrial pay-TV offering GOtv.
M-Net will set up the M-Net Film and TV Academy through M-Net Magic in Motion, the newly rebranded name of its social investment arm. The M-Net Cares brand has been replaced with the M-Net Magic in Motion brand.
‘Growing the next generation of film and television’
"M-Net is working to implement this exciting new programme to harness the talent and potential of young South Africans. We will groom and grow the next generation of South African film and television," said Yolisa Phahle.
"So starting next year M-Net will deliver an annual film academy that will create a pool of work-ready talented graduates who could hit the industry, bringing with them fresh ideas and new perspectives".
"The launch of this premier finishing school will be preceded next month by a career Exposition, and we're planning to expose students – especially those from previously disadvantaged communities – to the magic that is our world, and also to some of the most rewarding and some of the most challenging and varied opportunities in our industry" said Phahle.
"M-Net has a proud legacy of investment and achievement, and with our Academy and our Expo, we will be growing that legacy".
"Most important of all is our continued commitment to the transformation of our industry. Because I believe that all sustainable business is a consequence of not just serving your immediate consumers or viewers or customers."
"I know that the way to do well, is to make sure that you serve not only consumers, but communities, cities, and your country," said Phahle.
"It is in this way, with your continued co-operation, collaboration, that together we can create a long-lasting film and television industry in Africa, for Africans".
M-Net and MultiChoice's Galaxy of Stars made-for-TV event will be broadcast on 9 August on M-Net (DStv 101) at 14:00 and on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) at 21:30
Source: Channel 24
South African DTI production and post-production incentives
The South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has developed incentives to attract international investment and production as well as to assist South African filmmakers in developing local content.
The Foreign Film and Television Production and Post-Production Incentive is geared towards increasing skills, creativity and employment opportunities within the local film industry by promoting the country as a valuable production destination to international players.
The Foreign Film and Television Production and Post-Production Incentive offers:
• Shooting on location in South Africa, the incentive is 20% of the Qualifying South African Production Expenditure (QSAPE) - there is no cap for this incentive
• Shooting on location in South Africa and conducting post-production with a Qualifying SA Post-Production Expenditure (QSAPPE) in SA of R1.5m, the incentive is 22,5% of QSAPE and QSAPPE (an additional 2,5%, cumulative 22,5%)
• Shooting on location in South Africa and conducting post-production with a QSAPPE of R3m and more in South Africa, the incentive is 25% of QSAPE and QSAPPE (an additional 5%, cumulative 25%)
• Foreign post-production with QSAPPE of R1.5m, the incentive is 22,5% of QSAPPE
• Foreign post-production with QSAPPE of R3m and more the incentive is 25% of QSAPPE
Incentives are granted to foreign-owned qualifying productions and South African qualifying post-production work where:
• QSAPE is R12m and more, provided that at least 50% of the principal photography schedule is filmed in South Africa, for a minimum of four weeks
• QSAPPE is R1.5m and more, provided that 100% of the post-production is conducted in South Africa, for a minimum of two weeks
• An applicant must be a Special Purpose Corporate Vehicle (SPCV) incorporated in the Republic of South Africa solely for the purpose of the production and/or post-production of the film or television project
• An applicant must be the entity responsible for all activities involved in the production and/or post-production in South Africa and must have access to full financial information for the whole production and post-production worldwide
• Only one entity per production and/or post-production for film, animation and television drama or documentary series is eligible for the incentive
• The applicant must comply fully with its obligations in terms of the Legal Deposit Act 54 of 1997
• The DTI requires both the SPV and the parent company of the SPV to achieve a minimum level of compliance with regard to Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE). This is determined in accordance with a points scoring system and is subject to independent verification
• The final application must include a DVD of the final film, including the end-crawl (closing credits)
• The DTI requires a credit in the end-crawl, which must include its official logo
• A feature film must be no less than 90 minutes (including end credits) and a television series may be no more than 13 episodes of one hour each
The DTI only pays the rebate upon submission of the final application, which may only take place upon completion of the production (completion is defined as the date upon which the project is ready for distribution, exhibition or broadcast).
The main focus of the South African Local Production and Post-Production Incentive is to encourage the creation of local content and to increase employment opportunities in the country.
The rebate is calculated as 35% of the first R6m of QSAPE and 25% of the QSAPE on amounts above R6m.
South African Local Production and Post-Production Incentives are granted to productions which:
• Qualify as a South African film or as a South African co-production under an official co-production treaty. Coproduction certification is administered by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF)
• Special Purpose Corporate Vehicles (SPCV) incorporated in the Republic of South Africa solely for the purpose of the production of the film or television project
• The SPCV and parent company or companies must have a majority of South African shareholders of whom at least one shareholder must play an active role in the production and be accredited in that role
• An applicant must be the entity responsible for all activities involved in making the production in South Africa and must have access to full financial information for the whole production
• Only one film production, television drama or documentary series per entity is eligible for the incentive
• The following formats are eligible: feature films, tele-movies, television drama series, documentaries and animation. The DTI is in the process of adding digital content and gaming
• The incentive is available only to qualifying South African productions with a total production budget of R2.5m and more. However, the DTI is in the process of making the rebate available for projects that do not undertake shooting in South Africa but undertake a certain level of post-production within South Africa.
If the film is not bonded, the DTI only pays the rebate upon submission of the Final Application, which may only take place upon completion of the production (completion is defined as the date upon which the project is ready for distribution / exhibition / broadcast).
If the film is bonded the DTI will pay the rebate at milestones during the production process, as follows:
• % of rebate Milestone
• 20% Confirmation of Completion Bond
• 20% Start of principal photography
• 20% Completion of principle photography
• 20% Commencement of post-production
• 20% Submission of the Final Application
Wendy Mphahlele: WMphahlele@thedti.gov.za +27 (12) 394 1876
Rudi Siefert: RSiefert@thedti.gov.za +27 (12) 394 1270
Source: Screen Africa
Visit the DTI website for a full list of application forms and guidelines.
The 9th South African Film & Television Awards (SAFTAs 2015) call for entries is NOW OPEN!
It is that time of the year when the film and television industry prepare for the biggest event in the film calendar, The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs). The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), South Africa’s custodian of film is calling on all local production companies to submit their entries for the 9th Annual SAFTAs.
As announced by the NFVF CEO Ms. Zama Mkosi at the Durban International Film Festival’s press conference, the entries opened on Friday 18th July 2014 and will close on Tuesday the 19th of August 2014. “The industry hosted a very successful 8th SAFTAs in April 2014. We anticipate another spectacular event that would honour, celebrate and reward South African talent on and off the screen. We therefore urge eligible productions to submit their entries before the closing date,” says Ms. Mkosi. NO EXTENSIONS WILL BE GRANTED. To allow feature films that will screen later in the year an opportunity to be submitted at the right time, the SAFTAs committee has provided producers ample time to enter the SAFTAs. The closing date for the Feature Film submission will be the 30th of October 2014.
Ms. Mkosi further highlighted that, “We are proud to announce that the committee has decided to honour presenters by creating a Best Presenter in TV Non-Fiction award. In addition, we have answered to the call to separate youth and children categories by creating the Best Youth award and Best Children’s award. This will ensure that the best talents are honoured in the right categories.”
The SAFTAs, managed under the custodianship of the National Film and Video Foundation, are an industry initiative governed by the SAFTAS committee and the body of industry representatives comprising of the broadcasters, SASFED and other key stakeholders.
Only television and film programmes that have been produced and publicly exhibited or broadcast between 1st of Aug 2013 - 31 July 2014 and feature films produced & publicly exhibited between 1st of Jan 2014 - 31 December 2014 will be considered. Only productions that are entered will be eligible for consideration.
The SAFTAs give recognition to individuals and productions that have excelled in the following categories: TV Non-fiction, TV Fiction, Feature Films, Short Films, Student Films and Animation. The awards also celebrate film and television industry legends who have long served in various fields of the industry through the Special Lifetime Achievement award.
For the 09th Annual SAFTAs complete rules and entry guidelines visit www.saftaregistration.co.za
The submission of entries will be followed by the filtration judging process, which will then be followed by the final judging process. The nominees will be announced in February 2015.
The main awards ceremonies will be held on the 20th and 21st of March 2015 in Johannesburg where all winners will be announced and be presented with the official SAFTA trophy, the Golden Horn.
The industry is urged register on the SAFTAs registration website, complete the electronic forms and to drop off all required material before or no later than Tuesday 19th of August 2014 at 16h00 for attention:
Lala Tuku: SAFTA: project coordinator
87 Central Street
SAFTA registration website: www.saftaregistration.co.za
For any further enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org