South Africa: Soweto TV is Ready for Sunday's Launch

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Community television station SowetoTV will begin broadcasting as the country's first fully-fledged TV station dedicated to one area on Sunday evening. The Independent Communication Authority of SA (Icasa) issued SowetoTV with a 30-day licence limited to covering special events two years ago.

Three weeks ago, however, the authority acceded to requests from the station and converted its licence to cover a 12-month period of 24-hour coverage. According to SowetoTV head of marketing and sales Deon Botha, the lucrative opportunity to broadcast into the homes of Soweto's 4-million residents had been on hold for some time. He said the station was excited to be in a position to attract advertisers to this lucrative market.

"We would usually have to apply for a full 30- day licence from Icasa, even if we were only covering an event such as World Aids Day, because we never knew when we would get [permission] to go live. But because we didn't know when approval would come, we set up mobile units that would be ready."

The station has been running on a "piecemeal" basis for the past three years, surviving on help from volunteers and assistance from retail advertising from corporate business such as Absa and Shoprite Checkers.

In the short term, Botha said the station would "run without advertising for the first month, just to prove the quality of our product". He predicted advertising for the 11 months after that could generate R5m-R15m in revenue for the station . SowetoTV entered a partnership with the Sowetan newspaper (owned by Johnnic Communications, also part owner of Business Day) and will be airing live news feeds and interviews with Sowetan reporters for breaking news.

"We will run a news slot every hour , as well as entertainment shows in the evening and children's programmes in the afternoon." When SowetoTV began broadcasting on Sunday, it would be only three weeks after the go-ahead by Icasa, Botha said.

(Business Day (Johannesburg), 29 June 2007)