South Africa: ICASA’s Local Content Quota Exemption Receives Luke-Warm Response From Producers’ Organisation
20 May 2020
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) decision to exempt TV broadcasters from local content quotas during the COVID-19 national lockdown could destroy the sector, which is already struggling during this time, and also contradicts the government’s appeal to support local productions.
This is according to the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO), which represents South Africa’s film and TV producers, in response to the announcement made by ICASA last week.
Under the exemption, South Africa’s TV broadcasters will not be penalised for not meeting the local content requirements. The exemption is scheduled to continue until three months after the end of the lockdown is declared; however, the exclusions do not apply to the local music quotas on the radio.
IPO’s Trish Downing said that it is unthinkable that the country’s broadcasters could so heartlessly put the incomes and careers of so many people under such threat,
She added that what’s worse is that the decision was made without consulting Content Producers to possibly find some common ground on a way forward.
In a joint statement, Media Monitoring Africa and Save Our SABC (SOS) said that at a time when the media is playing such a critical role, these exemptions might be counterproductive and limit the positive role that the local production industry has proven itself to be highly capable of playing, as it had done in past public health crises like the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
ICASA approved the exemption for broadcasters including M-Net and eTV, following an application submitted by the SABC calling for more flexibility during the lockdown.
The regulator had considered three issues: broadcasters are currently required to air educational content on coronavirus; production houses had stopped production during Level 5 of the lockdown, leading to a significant shortage in available local content; and, the production houses may need more time to meet the new safety regulations.
ICASA released a statement saying that it believed that the exemption would offer broadcasters the flexibility required to focus on Covid-19 programming requirements as well as sufficient time to acquire local content when the lockdown restrictions are eventually lifted.