SOUTH AFRICA’S STATE DENIES INTERFERING ON TV LICENCES WITH ICASA

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The communications department has sought to allay fears that it is interfering in the issuing of new pay-TV licences by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) by imposing a moratorium on the process. The department denied media accusations that it was undermining Icasa's authority.

"At no point has the minister proposed that there be a moratorium on pay-television licensing, as has been alleged by the media," the department's director-general, Lyndall Shope-Mafole, said. "It is common ... knowledge that the licensing of broadcasting services is, and continues to be, an Icasa process."

A document issued for public comment last month "largely represents the proposals of the digital migration working group" made up of experts and representative of the broadcasting industry, the department said.

The working group was appointed by the department. It handed its report to Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri late last year.

The department proposed at a meeting with stakeholders that Icasa postpone the issuing of new licences until the end of next year to prevent the undermining of "the government's plans for digital migration, which will benefit all South Africans, not just those who can afford to buy subscription television services".

Shope-Mafole said the meeting was meant to garner the views of the broadly defined information and communications technology industry.

"It was made clear that the draft strategy and the implementation were not representative of the views of the department (or) of the minister."

Icasa spokesman Joel Sekgoela said Icasa had submitted its response to the working group but he could not comment further because "Icasa doesn't want to pre-empt the strategy -- it is just a proposal at this point".

Business Day