Thursday, November 26, 2009

CT TV Marches for Freedom!

26 November 2009

CTV marches for freedom

Supporters of Cape Town TV (CTV) marched on Parliament yesterday to demand government support for the channel, and for community broadcasting in general. The marchers, most of whom were drawn from CTV’s membership base of NGOs and unions, staged a colourful procession through the CBD to the gates of Parliament.

A memorandum stating their grievances and demands was handed to the Secretary of Parliament, Zingile Dingani , by the Chairperson of the CTV Board, Martin Jansen. CTV is fighting to remain on air in the face of several threats to its existence.

Says Jansen, “The state is not maintaining the vision of democracy that we fought for when we defeated apartheid. Today the government favours the interests of big capital ahead of those of the people. We have to fight for our right to communicate and to keep community television on air.”

CTV is demanding the following actions from government:
That CTV is not switched off when ICASA licenses a new cell phone TV operator next year but that a frequency is allocated to carry the channel.
The creation of a interim support fund for existing community TV stations, in addition to the speedy implementation of the Public Broadcasting Fund.
That Sentech provides CTV with a good quality signal and transmission for free or at a significantly reduced rate.
That community TV is protected during and after the migration to digital terrestrial television.

There are several factors that now directly threaten the existence of community television stations, and CTV is calling on the South African government to meet its commitments to a real developmental state by keeping community television alive.

Firstly ICASA intends to switch off all community TV stations in South Africa next year because of the migration to digital broadcasting. Government structures have no clear plan in place to secure community TV’s space on the airwaves when digital broadcasting arrives. Community television cannot continue to broadcast on analogue frequencies when viewers are switching over to digital television; and ICASA has only provided space on digital multiplex 1 to the Christian broadcaster TBN, which has a community television license. There is also no clarity on how other community television channels can be accommodated on local or national multiplexes.

Funding for community television is another urgent issue. Recently CTV had to go off air because it could not afford to pay the commercial rates charged by the state-owned signal provider, Sentech. Government funding is vital for this type of public service television to survive without being unduly commercialised.

CTV supports the proposed Public Broadcasting Fund, but it could take years for community TV to benefit from it. In the meantime community television stations are under constant threat of being cut off. Government must address the issue of funding community television now in order to secure the people’s right to communicate and to receive the information they need for community development.

Licensing is a third factor. Community TV operators struggle to attract financial support because they are licensed through one year “temporary” licenses, which means they are not seen as secure long-term investment prospects. The licensing period must be longer for community TV to be sustainable – and this must be effected much sooner than 2012, when the envisaged seven-year ‘class’ licenses may come into effect.

Comments Jansen, “Most citizens are simply not aware of these threats to community television and have not made their voices heard. If we want to save community TV as the people’s voice, it is critical that we stand up for our right to communicate.”

For further information, contact CTV Chairperson Martin Jansen on 021 447 2727 or Karen Thorne on 021 447 8377.