As competition for audiences becomes more intense, First African Broadcast, Film and Convergence conference seeks to tackle key issues

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Africa’s broadcast and film industry will be holding its first get-together in Nairobi in September as the industry enters a period of unprecedented change and growth. Oscar Beauttah, Conference Chairman, and Russell Southwood, Conference Programme Director, provide a preview of the themes to be covered in this exciting three-day industry event.

Just under half of the countries in Africa have liberalised their broadcast markets and there has been a considerable growth in the number of new television and radio stations this Century. And when the remaining countries open their markets, broadcasting will experience dramatic growth over the next five years similar to that in the mobile market over the past five years.

Whereas broadcast media used to be simply a small number of TV and radio channels, there is now a proliferation of ways in which broadcast programming can be received by its audiences including satellite, IP-TV, PC and mobile. Taken together, the number of channels and the many different ways of receiving programming has begun to fragment the traditional market. African broadcasters need to find new ways to sustain their audiences and attract new advertising.

African government broadcasters are particularly threatened by the new media landscape. Largely without funding, they have to deliver public service obligations and at the same time, compete ever more fiercely in the market for premium rights, audiences and advertisers.

The First African Broadcast, Film & Convergence Conference in Nairobi 23-25 September 2008 will bring together senior broadcast executives, producers, advertising agency executives, regulators and policy-makers to discuss the challenges faced by the industry over the next five years.

The conference will be opened by Kenya’s Minister for Information and Communication, Samuel Poghisio, MP, the Managing Director of KBC, David Waweru, and CEO of the Kenya Film Commission, David Maingi, who is also a sponsor of the conference.

The key issues the conference will tackle are as follows:

Fragmentation and the impact of other media: The first session of the conference looks at how traditional television and radio broadcasters will face increased competition from Pay-TV operators and the Internet. Keynote speakers include Khalik Sherriff, the COO of South Africa’s leading private channel e.TV and Ian Fernandes, Managing Director of the Nation TV’s Digital Division, who was formerly in charge of Nation TV.

The potential for Pay-TV by satellite and IP-TV: The leading African Pay-TV operators will all be speaking along with a number of the new entrants. Eben Grayling, CEO of Multichoice Africa will look at the potential for Pay-TV along with the CEO of GTV, Julian McIntyre. The session will also include Richard Bell of the African Telecoms Media and Technology Fund which has announced its intention to offer a Triple Play bundle (including TV and films, voice and Internet) and Redeemer Kwame of Ghana Telecom, which has gone into partnership with the Indian company WiseNet to offer IP-TV (television over a broadband Internet connection).

International rights and issues affecting programme sales: South African lawyer Claudia Rinke will look at the issues raised by getting access international rights for things like Hollywood and Bollywood movies and sports programming like football.

Creating high-quality African content and formats that can compete in international markets: Local Kenyan Film-makers Angelo Kinyua of Big Ideas Entertainment and Thump Campbell will debate with Lucy Scher of the UK’s Script Factory and Ronnie Andrews of GTV how best to encourage both the growth and quality of African film and TV production. This session is part of a broader theme about getting African work seen more widely and there is a second session that concentrates on how to promote the distribution and exhibition of work that includes leading South African film producer, Jeremy Nathan, DV8 and Bjorn Maes of Africalia.

The threats to advertising – how does broadcast hold on to its share?: Lenny Nganga of Saracen Media looks at how television will fare over the next five years as the number of channels proliferate. A key market research company will look at how audiences are changing and James Boyd McFie, Business School, Strathmore University and a board member of the Standard Group will look at how broadcast companies can remain profitable.

The transition to digital broadcasting: Kenya has been among the leaders in Africa in addressing the transition to digital broadcasting and the conference will hear from Daniel Obam of Kenya’s Digital Transition Committee as well as from Paul Martin of equipment manufacturers Sony and Roslyn Coldry of NDS who do the anti-piracy software for the set-top boxes. The latter two speakers are part of an equipment vendors’ briefing session that will be addressed and chaired by Kiane Nderitu, Technical Manager, Nation TV.

Learning to live with convergence: Convergence has become a buzz-word in the industry and is another theme of the conference. Speakers looking at this issue include Joh Sarpong of global African diaspora channel Africast, Joe Mucheru of Google and Michael Hallinan of broadcast platform MediaMerx. The session will also include mobile platform operators who are running competitions and voting linked to popular programmes and events.

Africa’s broadcast and film sectors are undergoing one of the most intensive periods of change since they started. The conference hopes to help all those in the industry chart a clearer way forward over the next five years. An African programme being shown on prime time European TV? An African co-production across ten countries? An African director winning an Oscar? Anything’s possible if the industry can take the opportunities that are currently emerging from the liberalisation of the sector.