Monday, June 28, 2010




NEW YORK, May 4th, 2010 – Building on the success of the program’s first two years, Focus Features will accept entries for a third year of its Africa First Program beginning Monday, May 17th and continuing through Monday, August 3rd. Focus CEO James Schamus made the announcement today.

The uniquely conceived initiative, with funds earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, is for the third consecutive year offering eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded $10,000 in financing for pre-production, production, and/or post-production on their narrative short film made in continental Africa and tapping into the resources of the film industry there. The program also brings the filmmakers together with each other and with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship. Complete details on Africa First – including application information – can be accessed through

Past short films to come out of the program have been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin Film Festivals and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, among other venues worldwide. Africa First is supervised by producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle (... Sometimes in April), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the Program’s submissions and evaluations with Focus director of production Matthew Plouffe. In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers of Africa First will visit New York City in the fall of 2010 for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with each other; members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema; such Focus executives as Mr. Schamus and president of production John Lyons, covering topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and Mrs. Cameron-Dingle and Mr. Plouffe.

Mr. Schamus said, “The entry period for the Africa First Program is when we seek out the next generation of filmmakers and seek to help them bring their dreams and visions to the screen.”

Mrs. Cameron-Dingle added, “Whether a thriller, musical, or sci-fi tale, films from the Africa First Program have generated audience and industry attention, and we want to keep cultivating that diversity of material and new talent.”

In 2008, the Africa First Program selected these filmmakers and their respective films; Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda) for Long Coat, Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa) for The Tunnel, Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (from South Africa) for The Abyss Boys, Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal) for N’Dar (a.k.a. St. Louis Blues), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya) for Pumzi [Breath]. The winning filmmakers for 2009 were Mr. Stephen Abbott (from South Africa) for Dirty Laundry, Mr. Matt Bishanga (from Uganda) for A Good Catholic Girl, Mr. Daouda Coulibaly (from Mali) for Tinye So, Mr. Matthew Jankes (from South Africa) for Umkhungo, and Ms. Rungano Nyoni (from
Zambia) for The Adventures of Mwansa the Great.

This year, the submissions period begins on May 16th, 2010 and runs through July 17th, 2010. The five filmmakers selected will be notified in late September 2010 and will retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.

Completion is developing feature, documentary, and television projects. Its president, Mrs. Cameron-Dingle, previously worked as director of development at Walden Media, and as an executive at New Line Cinema, where she oversaw the development and production of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled.

The Africa First advisory board members are Ms. Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival; journalist and documentary filmmaker Ms. Jihan El- Tahiri; Ms. June Givanni, who for four years programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Mr. Clarence Hamilton, script editor and Head of Production at NFVF; Ms. Sharifa Johka, film programmer and independent producer; Mr. Pedro Pimenta, producer and manager of training programs throughout South Africa; and Mr. Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.

Focus Features and Focus Features International ( comprise a singular global company. This worldwide studio makes original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success. The company operates as Focus Features in North America, and as Focus Features International (FFI) in the rest of the world.

Current and upcoming Focus Features releases include Greenberg, from writer/director Noah Baumbach and starring Ben Stiller; the unique nonfiction feature Babies, directed by Thomas Balm├Ęs; Anton Corbijn’s suspense thriller The American, starring George Clooney; writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story; Academy Award-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere; Kevin Macdonald’s Roman epic adventure The Eagle of the Ninth, starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong; Joe Wright’s adventure thriller Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, and Eric Bana; Cary Fukunaga’s romantic drama Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender; and Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.

Focus Features and Focus Features International are part of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric and 20% owned by Vivendi.

Adriene Bowles
FOCUS FEATURES/818-777-7499

V.J. Carbone
FOCUS FEATURES/212-539-4055

Article from the Financial Mail: SABC financially unsustainable?

Starting all over again

Carol Paton, Financial Mail, Johannesburg, 24 June 2010

The SABC board has gone back to the drawing board to appoint the corporation’s head of news, a decision backed by minister of communications Siphiwe Nyanda.

Board chairman Ben Ngubane — who unilaterally appointed staffer Phil Molefe to the position a month ago, before the board had completed the interviewing procedures — has reluctantly had to accept the decision.

The four candidates who had been short-listed for the job will now be evaluated by the interviewing committee and a recommendation will be made to the board. However, Nyanda, who met the board last week, appealed to it to delay any further discussion on the future of Ngubane or CEO Solly Mokoetle — both of whom had acted in defiance of the board over Molefe’s appointment — until “after the World Cup”. After the appointment, the board passed a resolution stating there had been a breakdown of trust between it and Ngubane.

“The shareholder [represented by Nyanda] agreed that the process of interviewing, scoring and recommendation for the head of news should [be resumed] ,” said a member of the board. “But he also said that to retain the integrity and sustainability of the corporation, we should not take actions that will precipitate another crisis. He suggested that we deal with other things later.”

While board members have differing views on what should be done about Ngubane (who is appointed by the president) and Mokoetle (appointed by the previous board) they agreed to hold off discussing it, in the interests of dealing with other pressing issues. Chief among them is the SABC’s financial position.

The financial statements for 2009/2010, which were seen by the board last week, show the corporation is still in the red. Losses are believed to be in the region of R400m, though this is significantly less than last year’s R900m.

Also, crucial targets were missed by management. These were not set by Mokoetle, who took up his post only in January 2010, board members strongly feel he has not provided leadership.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan met Ngubane last week. As treasury provided the SABC with a R1bn credit guarantee last November, he has a special interest in the corporation’s financial affairs. In terms of the loan guarantee, the SABC is obliged to meet certain targets and conditions.

It must also submit a turnaround plan before a further R473m guarantee will be provided.

Without a strong plan the SABC could be judged financially unsustainable when its audit is finalised in July.

SOS Congratulates the Board for beginning to address the serious governance breaches at the SABC but calls for further action



28 JUNE 2010

The SOS Campaign representing a number of trade unions (including Cosatu, Fedusa and Bemawu), a host of NGOs (including Media Monitoring Africa, the Freedom of Expression Institute and Misa-SA), CBOs, industry related bodies, academics and freedom of expression activists congratulate the SABC Board on beginning to remedy the serious corporate governance breaches at the SABC as regards the appointment of the Head of News. SOS is heartened to hear from a number of media reports including the Financial Mail that in line with good corporate governance practices an interview panel will continue its assessment of candidates for the position and make recommendations to the Board.

However, SOS believes strongly that these corporate governance breaches can not be laid to rest here. The Coalition believes that it is still imperative that action is taken against the Chair of the SABC Board. SOS still calls on Dr. Ben Ngubane to resign. This is in light of the fact that he can no longer be trusted to lead the SABC. The Auditor General’s Report looking into corruption and mismanagement at the SABC stated clearly that the SABC needs to ensure leadership and impeccable adherence to good corporate governance procedures going forward. But Dr Ngubane unilaterally decided to appoint the Head of News thus circumventing the SABC’s own internal processes and contravening good corporate practices and protocols as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act, Public Finance Management Act, the Companies Act and King III.

Further, the corporate governance breaches perpetrated by Dr. Ngubane caused such serious governance crises at the SABC that the Minister of Communications was called on to intervene. But ideally the Minister should not be playing an interventionist role. The SABC is a public not a state broadcaster - the Board should govern the affairs of the Corporation. However, the actions of the Chair have directly encouraged Ministerial intervention.

Further, SOS would like to know what action is being taken against the SABC’s GCEO, Solly Mokoetle. We note Mr Mokoetle initially implemented Dr Ngubane’s illegal decision to appoint the Head of News as Mr.Phil Molefe. Then after the Board had clearly stated this action was illegal, he then again confirmed Mr. Molefe as Head of News thus further deepening the corporate governance crises at the SABC.

Finally, linked to this sad state of affairs, SOS again notes the very serious allegations of censorship at the SABC related to this latest governance saga. Once again we call on the Board to investigate allegations in this regard - and in particular the role of Dr. Ben Ngubane, Mr. Solly Mokoetle and Mr. Phil Molefe. SOS notes the Deputy Chair of the SABC Board was censored when commenting on the appointment of the Head of News. Further, it appears that certain union (including Cosatu) and NGO (including Media Monitoring Africa) pre-recorded radio interviews were spiked as they critically commented on the appointment. Also, SOS notes the resignation of the Head of Radio News. SOS notes that allegations have been made that she broadcast, as she was obliged to, the Board’s press statement clarifying the illegal nature of the Head of News appointment. For taking this editorially sound decision she was then illegally disciplined which allegedly led to her decision to take early retirement.

SOS would like the SABC to communicate clearly to the general public on these issues rather than through the media. It is critical that the SABC foster a culture of transparency and communication. As a public broadcaster the SABC’s main stakeholder is the public. Hence the SABC needs to ensure that its decision making and governance processes are transparent to the general public.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator - 082-926-6404
William Bird – Executive Director Media Monitoring Africa – 082-887-1370
Siphiwe Segodi – Freedom of Expression Network – 072-655-4177
Melissa Moore – Head Law Clinic Freedom of Expression Institute – 082-924-8268
Matankana Mothapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – 082-759-0900
Hannes du Buisson – President Broadcasting Electronic and Media Workers Union – 082-920-8669

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

MY TOWN short documentary competition

Call for 3 minute mini-documentary

In 2009 the Documentary Filmmakers’ Association, in collaboration with the Encounters Documentary Festival launched the MY TOWN short documentary competition. After and enthusiastic response from filmmakers and aspirant filmmakers we’ve decided to keep a good thing going and allow it to develop into an exciting annual event.

MY TOWN 2010

The town we come from/live in shapes who we are. We occupy its space, it occupies us. In this short 3 minute documentary competition, filmmakers, aspirant filmmakers, artists and students are invited to make a short 3 minute documentary titled “My Town”. You can interpret this brief any way you like – revisit your birthplace, explore your suburb or township and tell your story.

The 8 best films will be chosen by a selection panel appointed by the Documentary Filmmakers Association (DFA). These 8 films will screen at the Waterfront Nu Metro cinema as part of the Encounters documentary festival (as pre- main feature shorts). The 12th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival will be held in Cape Town from the 12th to the 29th of August 2010. One film will be selected as an overall winner by a panel of judges comprising of film as well as arts and broadcast practitioners. The winner will be announced at a function during the Encounters Documentary Festival in Cape Town.

Prizes to be announced will include cash and film-making support

Films will be produced at own expense. The films produced remain the property of the filmmakers. The DFA will endeavor to negotiate broadcast and festival screenings with the filmmakers’ permission. Selected Filmmakers will benefit from on-screen credits and general media exposure through the project. All filmmakers who enter a film will receive a year’s free membership to the Documentary Filmmakers Association (July 2010 – June 2011).

Delivery and Deadline:
Deliver 3 x copies of your film on DVD (DVD’s must be high quality and viewable on home dvd players)

Films must be delivered by 14:00 on 23 July 2010

Deliver to:
7 Glynnville Terrace
Gardens, Cape Town, 8001
For Attention: THERESA MEYER

All films delivered must be accompanied with a signed MY TOWN competition entry form.

Click here to downloaded the WORD version of MY TOWN competition entry form.
Click here to downloaded the PDF version of MY TOWN competition entry form.



18 JUNE 2010

The SOS Campaign representing a number of trade unions (including Cosatu and Fedusa), a host of NGOs (including Media Monitoring Africa, the Freedom of Expression Institute and Misa-SA), CBOs, industry related bodies, academics and freedom of expression activists note the deafening silence from the SABC as regards the illegal appointment of the Head of News.
As civil society we are still in the dark as to what is happening with a number of critical issues. We call on the SABC Board to:
  • Publically explain what action is being taken as regards the actions of the Chair of the SABC Board, Dr. Ben Ngubane. Dr Ngubane’s unilateral decision to appoint the Head of News circumvented the SABC’s own internal processes and contravened good corporate practices and protocols as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act, Public Finance Management Act, the Companies Act and King III. In light of the above SOS would like to know why Dr Ngubane has not resigned or why the Board has not recommended to Parliament that he be removed.
  • Publically explain the disciplinary action they are taking as regards the SABC’s GCEO, Solly Mokoetle. Mr Mokoetle initially implemented Dr Ngubane’s illegal decision to unilaterally appoint the Head of News. Then after the Board had clearly stated this action was illegal, and in a move that seriously deepened the crisis at the SABC, he then again confirmed the Head of News as Mr. Phil Molefe.
Further, SOS has noted with dismay that censorship, reminiscent of the black listing controversy of 2006, appears to have emerged once again. In this regard SOS calls on the Board to investigate allegations that the Deputy Chair of the SABC Board was censored when commenting on the appointment of the Head of News. Further, it appears that certain union (including Cosatu) and NGO (including Media Monitoring Africa) pre-recorded radio interviews were spiked as they critically commented on the appointment of the Head of News. Also, SOS notes the resignation of the Head of Radio News. Allegations have been made that she broadcast, as she was obliged to, the Board’s press statement clarifying the illegal nature of the appointment of the Head of News. For taking this editorially sound decision she was then illegally disciplined which allegedly led to her decision to take early retirement.

SOS states once more that this is a critical moment for the SABC – and in particular the SABC Board. The public are beginning to lose faith in the SABC’s ability to reinvent itself as a well governed, strong, powerful, democracy enriching institution. The Board needs to show its mettle. There is no time to lose. SOS believes that the first step is to publically explain what is going on at the SABC! The World Cup can not be an excuse for inaction.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator - 082-926-6404
Patrick Craven – Cosatu Spokesperson – 082-8217456
Siphiwe Segodi – Freedom of Expression Network – 072-655-4177
William Bird – Executive Director Media Monitoring Africa – 082-887-1370
Melissa Moore – Head Law Clinic Freedom of Expression Institute – 082-924-8268
Matankana Mathapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – 082-759-0900
Faiza Abrahams-Smith – Director Misa-SA – 076-995-9513

June RFP Book

Dear Members,

The following was received bye the IPO office today. We are glad that at least finally some RPF's will be released, but are keen to see when these result in actual revenue to producers.


Dear Desiree
Our telephone conversation refers.

The June RFP Book will be available to producers on the SABC website at 4pm, on June 21st. We will send out a sms to all producers on our database and other databases of the regional film commissions etc. I will let you know on Monday 21 when producers can pick up hard copies of the book from SABC offices.

Kamscilla Naidoo
General Manager Content Support/Operations
SABC Content Enterprise

Australian High Commission: Australia and South Africa to sign film co-production treaty on 18 June

(Click here to see file: Media release - Australia and South Africa sign film co-production agreement.pdf)


MEDIA RELEASE, 17 June 2010

Australia and South Africa to sign film co-production agreement

Australian and South African film-makers will have more opportunities to work together following the finalisation of a bilateral film co-production agreement between the two countries.

The treaty-level agreement will be signed at 11am on Friday 18 June 2010 by the Australian Minister for Sport, Youth, Early Childhood Education and Childcare, the Hon Kate Ellis MP, and the South African Minister for Arts and Culture, the Hon Lulama Xingwana.

The treaty aims to encourage film co-productions between Australian and South African film-makers by streamlining some of the administrative and funding issues around cooperation in film-making.

Practical benefits for film-makers are that projects approved as official co-productions under the treaty will be granted ‘national treatment’ by both countries meaning co-producers can access a range of funding and tax benefits; simplified immigration requirements for the entry of skilled personnel; and duty free importation of equipment for use in co-productions. Official co-productions will also be treated as ‘local content’ under domestic television broadcast quotas.

The agreement, once approved through each country’s respective parliamentary processes, will provide opportunities for Australian and South African film-makers to pool their creative and financial resources, facilitate cultural and creative exchange between the countries and increase the output of high-quality productions.

Minister Kate Ellis said “This film co-production agreement is a further example of the growing bilateral relationship between Australia and South Africa. Our two countries have long competed and cooperated in the sporting arena and I am delighted to see our connections are expanding in the cultural sphere as well.”

Australian and South African film-makers already are working together to great effect. An example of this is the Australian – South African joint production, The Team that Never Played – a film about apartheid era football players that never participated in the FIFA World Cup owing to sporting sanctions.

The Team that Never Played will premiere in South Africa at the official opening of the Africa on Screen and Soccer Film festivals on Thursday 24 June.

# Signing of Film Co-Production Treaty

Venue: Office of the Minister of Arts and Culture, Level 10, Kingsley Centre Corner Church and Beatrix Streets, Pretoria
Time: 11am on Friday 18 June

Please RSVP to Tsakani Sithole on 012 441 3606 or

# Premiere of The Team that Never Played

Venue: Sci Bono Discovery Centre Newtown, Johannesburg
Time: 6.30pm on Thursday 24 June

Please RSVP to Lara Preston on

For more information about the potential of the agreement for film-makers, please see the Screen Australia website –

For further information, please contact Public Affairs Officer, Mr William Blomfield on +27 83 409 3619 or

Monday, June 14, 2010

Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking Course

Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking, the award-winning film school, is now offering fully sponsored National Certificates in Filmmaking in Cape Town. The courses are entry level (NQF 4) and intermediate (NQF 5) level and are available to energetic, organized, entrepreneurial, committed, reliable and innovative individuals that are committed to succeed in the film and TV industry.

The NQF 4 course content includes introduction in directing, cinematography, production management/producing, editing, sound, research and understanding script.

The NQF 5 course objective is to expand on current knowledge, upskilling those who have already proved commitment and passion to the industry and want to specialize in their chosen electives.

Training is project focused, working in all disciplines related to the film industry. Tutoring and mentoring are by South Africa’s top leading professionals and using state-of-the-art equipment. At BigFish we also create simulated and actual workplace experiences for course participants.

DURATION: 34 weeks per course (8 Months)
COURSE START DATES: October 2010 & January 2011
TIMES: 09H00 – 16H30, Monday to Friday
COST: Fully Sponsored

Applicants are to be available for a 34 week period.
NQF 4 requires Grade 12 and with proof of passion, commitment and interest in the sector.

NQF 5 requires minimum three years experience in the film and TV sector and/or previous tertiary training or certification in the sector.

Applicants to send their CV as soon as possible to Connie Mosegedi on: or for further information call (011) 482 5599 or
Mappp Seta registration number Bihgh7MAPP08012186

MAPPP-SETA calling for Discretionary Grants

Please click here for DG Call advert that will be published on the Sunday Times of this coming weekend, on 13th June 2010.

Please circulate the advert to our stakeholders in your database, the advert and the applications forms are available on the Mappp-Seta website at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

From Business Day report - Film firms face closure, SABC stalls

Film firms ‘face closure’ if SABC stalls further on local proposals

Chantelle Benjamin, Business Day, Johannesburg, 10 June 2010

INDEPENDENT film and documentary producers have warned that they will be forced to close their doors if SABC’s new board does not soon issue proposals for new local programmes, as promised.

The Television Industry Emergency Coalition said the new board, led by Ben Ngubane, had promised them in March that requests for proposals would be issued by the end of last month . The SABC last issued requests for programme ideas in September 2008 and then cancelled more than half of the potential programmes last year to cut costs.

A senior SABC official yesterday told Business Day that the delay was not the fault of the board, but of SABC management, which sent through documentation only towards the end of last month, “giving the board no real opportunity to look at the documents”. The board was expected to “look at some aspects of the RFP (request for programming) books today”, the official said.

Film producers have been hard hit by SABC’s financial problems, with the coalition estimating that 35000 jobs had been lost and “dozens of companies closed”.

Slow payments for shows currently being aired on SABC have led to protests by producers and a number of meetings with the interim board and now the new board .

The coalition said yesterday the SABC interim board had obtained government-guaranteed loans, in part to ensure the commissioning of new local programming , which would be in line with the SABC’s mandate to carry a certain percentage of local content.

The delay in commissioning also raises questions about the SABC’s ability to provide enough local content for the extra channels that will become available after SA’s migration to digital terrestrial television.

According to the coalition, the board told a meeting of some of its members, the Independent Producers Organisation of SA and the South African Screen Federation, that the SABC would release new requests for proposals no later than May 31 this year. The coalition said the board had “failed to approve the expenditure required for the new set of requests for proposals”.

Desiree Markgraaf, a member of the coalition, said the crisis for the production sector was far from over. “The SABC used to commission new content twice a year and there has been no new spend for two years. There are no reports of projects in production for 2011 or 2012.”

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said an internal approval process still had to be concluded before new commissioning could begin.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Film Industry Contributes £4.6bn To UKplc


Generating £1.2 billion to the British Exchequer, according to a new Oxford Economics report. That's the equivalent of $6.7 billion in gross domestic product. The Economic Impact of the UK Film Industry underlines the importance of the UK film tax credit. Without the UK film tax relief in place, UK GDP would £1.4 billion a year less. The government spends about £110 million a year on the tax credit, so it’s getting an extra £13 back for every pound spent.

UK Film Council, the Pinewood Shepperton group and post-production companies Framestore, Cinesite and Double Negative all paid for the report, so there’s no surprise it’s so upbeat.

Oxford Economics says that the core film industry – stripping out ancillary businesses such as tourism and merchandising – contributes £1.6 billion in GDP and £445 million towards the public purse. This means that the core UK film business is worth slightly more in GDP than, say, the British computer manufacturing industry. And film is worth three times as much to the local economy as designer fashion.
  • The UK film industry directly employs around 36,000 (up by 30% since 2000 and 7% since 2006), supporting a total of 100,000 direct and indirect jobs (up from 95,000 in 2007).
  • Inward investment is estimated to account for around £3.6 billion of film’s contribution to GDP and £960 million in Exchequer revenues.
  • Films depicting the UK are responsible for generating around a 10th of overseas tourist revenue, totalling around £1.9 billion a year.
  • Showing UK films on TV helps local broadcasters generate about £245 million of revenues. Total multiplier activity contributes a further £1.6 billion a year to UK GDP and £425 million to UK tax revenues.
  • Merchandising – merchandising associated with UK films supported about 6,600 jobs in 2009 and contributed about £237 million to UK GDP and £107 million to the Exchequer.
  • Fifty eight per cent of the production workforce is university educated.
  • London has a global market share of approximately 20% in VFX work.

TVIEC PRESS RELEASE: Local Content Crisis Deepens at SABC as RFPs Not Released

8 June 2010
PRESS RELEASE (Revised 10 June 2010)


Independent Producers this week expressed concern at the fact that commissioning briefs (RFP’s) for the industry, due to be released on May 31st, have not been issued.

Historically the SABC issued Request for Proposals (RFPs) twice a year for new cycles of programming. This is the way SABC procures local content. There have been no RFPs issued since September 2008, of which half were cancelled when the financial crisis hit in April 2009. The estimated annual value of local programming is R1-billion.

Local content is the most popular content on SABC, generating substantial revenue. Not issuing RFPs will result in few or no new programmes on air in the future.

The TVIEC is concerned that not releasing these crucial RFPs will deepen the local content crisis at the broadcaster – and further cripple the local television industry.

Without new programming, the broadcaster has come to rely on a strategy of repeats. This has led to a significant loss in audience share and has battered the independent production sector. Over 35 000 jobs have been lost and dozens of companies have closed their doors.

Acutely aware of the consequences on the industry, the SABC Interim Board obtained government guaranteed loans, in part to ensure that the commissioning of new programming could resume. They informed the independent production sector that this would be in January 2010. This did not happen.

In March this year, at a meeting with the industry, the newly-appointed SABC Board acknowledged the damage caused to the industry by the delay in commissioning and made a commitment that the SABC would release new RFPs no later than 31 May 2010. This has again not happened as the Board has failed to approve the expenditure required for a new set of RFPs.

The TVIEC has no option but to assume that the requisite approval did not occur because of the internal problems that have once again beset the board and management at the SABC.

The industry has offered the Board new strategies and proposals for local content partnerships with the SABC. Industry bodies, supported by bodies such as the National Film and Video Foundation and IDC, have repeatedly put proposals on the table for revised funding models, including working with government monetary incentives for the creation of new local content and where a new approach to the sharing of intellectual property can unlock new programming and funding support for the SABC.

The TVIEC would like some answers from the SABC. What budget does the public broadcaster have available for new local content? When will the promised RFPs be released? What is the SABC doing about its ICASA-regulated mandate to fulfil local content obligations?

Without answers to these questions we see no way forward but to once again mobilise our industry and take to the streets to make our voices heard.

Charl: 082-6813680

This press release is written on behalf of the TVIEC (Television Industry Emergency Coalition) which consists of:
CWU (Creative Workers Union) and SASFED (South African Screen Federation) who represent as industry federation: DFA (The Documentary Filmmakers Association) / IPO (The Independent Producers Organisation) / OSCA SA (The Official South African Casting Association) / PMA (The Personal Managers' Association) / SAGA (South African Guild of Actors) / SAGE (South African Guild of Editors) / WGSA (Writers Guild of South Africa) / WIFTSA (Women in Film and Television SA) / WOS (Women of the Sun)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Children's press conference on the World Cup

Talk Back!!

Listen up Fifa!
Pay attention Ministers!
And we’ve a message for the media too!

For a fresh critical perspective come to our children’s press conference!

Children’s Press Conference
Date: 12th June 2010
Location: Witwatersrand University, South West Engineering Building Seminar Room
(Room #5).

One day into the World Cup, children from two local schools (Naturena Primary and Saxonwold Primary) are going to be giving their verdict on Bafana Bafana’s first performance, and letting you know how they feel about the big stories hitting the headlines. Come and hear their calls for change, and their views on what we can do better!

Photo opportunity at 12.45pm
Press Conference at 1pm

Contact Laura Fletcher
Advocacy and Research Officer
Media Monitoring Africa
Tel: +2711 788 1278
Cell:+27 73 046 3404
Fax: +2711 788 1289

Monday, June 7, 2010

Progress Reports on the Digital Migration Policy and Implementation Strategy: briefings by the Minister, Department, ICASA, Sentech & SABC

Created 4 Jun 2010 - 12:40
Meeting Report Information
Date of Meeting:
1 Jun 2010
Mr I Vadi (ANC)
Documents handed out:

Arionbomema’s Position on the Introduction Of The ISDB-T Broadcast Standard submission [1]

Copy of ETV subission to the Department of Communication on change of standard [2]

Altech UEC (Pty) Limited submission [3]

Annexure A – Development of DTT and DVB-T Standard in South Africa [4]

Annexure C – Overview Set Top Box Aspects [5]

Changing The DTT Standard – Fact Sheet [6]

ETV Submissions on Changing the Standard for Digital Terrestrial Television in South Africa [7]

Department of Communications: Digital Migration [8]

Digital Migration Plan and Strategy [9]

MNET: Briefing on Digital Migration [10]

SABC Digital Terrestrial Television Update [11]

Sentech’s Presentation [12]

Tellumat: Television broadcast standards for Digital Terrestrial Transmission [13]

Timeline for the DVB-T Standard in SA [14]

Audio recording of the meeting:

PC Com: Special Information & Briefing Session by the Department of Communications, ICASA, SABC & Sentec on Digital Migration [15]


The Minister of Communications and representatives from the Department of Communications, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the South African Broadcasting Corporation and Sentech briefed the Committee on the progress made in the implementation of the Digital Broadcasting Migration Policy adopted by Cabinet in 2000.

The African continent and Europe was classified as Region 1 of the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations. South Africa had agreed to the Geneva 06 Agreement, which determined that the DVB-T standard would apply to countries in Region 1. Although the Geneva 06 Agreement was not formally ratified by Parliament, the International Telecommunications Union considered South Africa’s acceptance of the agreement to be binding.

The initial target date for commencing digital terrestrial television broadcasts was set for November 2008. Sentech proceeded with providing the infrastructure required in terms of the DVB-T standard in 2005, before ICASA had published the DTT Regulations and the Radio Frequency Spectrum Plan in order to meet the deadline. The regulations and spectrum plan were finalised in 2009, based on the DVB-T standard agreed to in 2006. The infrastructure already provided by Sentech did not comply with the regulations issued in 2009.

The DVB-T standard was amended in order to address the technological shortcomings of the original standard, resulting in the formulation of the DVB-T2 standard. Other countries had developed sets of standards as well, notably the ISDB-T standards adopted by Japan and Brazil.

Following a Ministerial conference held by the Southern African Development Countries during May 2010, the Minister of Communications decided to appoint a task team to evaluate the suitability of the DVB-T and ISDB-T standards. A report was expected in the following two months. The current target date for commencing digital terrestrial television broadcasts was November 2011. The presenters agreed that it was unlikely that the target date would be met and were unable to advise what the new target date would be.

The briefing by the Department of Communications covered the background to digital migration, the objectives of the BDN Policy, the benefits of migrating to digital television, the key policy decisions, the key priorities identified, the establishment of a Digital Dzonga to oversee implementation, Set Top Box manufacturing, the South African National Standard SANS 862 applicable to Set Top Boxes, the Scheme for Ownership Support Framework, signal distribution and digital terrestrial television public broadcasting.

The Minister of Communications provided the background to the various standards and the decision to appoint the task team to review the standards.

Members asked questions about the reasons for conducting a review of the standards, the implications if South Africa adopted a different standard, the additional costs incurred if the standard was changed, the retail price of Set Top Boxes, the effect on the implementation target date and the Dzonga awareness campaign to educate consumers.

The briefing by ICASA dealt with the current status of television services in South Africa, the objective of the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy, South Africa’s international obligations, the digital terrestrial television implementation plan, the regulatory framework for BDM, the DTT regulations, the Radio Frequency Spectrum Plan for DTT, Set Top Boxes and the time frames for implementation. ICASA was the regulator and was responsible for implementing Government policy but the necessity to comply with the international agreements was emphasised.

Members queried the necessity to change the applicable standard. Questions were asked about the implications of adopting a different standard, the effect on neighbouring countries and the effect on the target date for implementation. Other questions dealt with the need to have the GE06 agreement formally ratified by Parliament, if DSTV broadcasts were affected, the compression techniques provided for in DVB-T2 and the involvement of ICASA in the discussions that were held.

The briefing by the SABC included the five critical success factors identified, i.e. more channels, the affordability of Set Top Boxes, education and marketing, customer support and coverage. The presentation explained the DTT value chain, the phases of the digital migration process, the pilot programme undertaken by the SABC, the lessons learnt from the pilot programme, the impact of delays in implementation and the critical issues that had to be resolved prior to the implementation date. Concerns were expressed over the financial viability of the SABC if the implementation process was delayed.

Members asked questions about the manufacture lead times and cost of STB’s, the appointment of the manufacturers of STB’s, the additional services available to disabled persons, the poor broadcast signals experienced in certain remote areas of the country, the effect on the SABC if the standard was changed and whether a report on the pilot project had been forwarded to the Minister.

The briefing by Sentech covered the utilisation of the funds made available to date (R625 million of the total allocation of R1.3 billion), the regulatory, technological, commercial and financial challenges, the mitigating factors applied and the progress made to date. The presentation highlighted the differences in the interpretation of the relevant provisions in the Electronic Communications Act and the Sentech Act between ICASA and Sentech. Sentech was perturbed by the implications of the regulations published by ICASA, which differed from the standards applied by Sentech for the infrastructure already provided. A meeting between the Department, ICASA and Sentech was scheduled for 4 June 2010 in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Members’ questions were focused on the action that had to be taken to resolve the impasse between Sentech and ICASA.

The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Communications, the members of a delegation from Japan and the representatives of the entities invited to brief the Committee on the progress made in the implementation of the Digital Broadcasting Migration (DBM) Policy. DBM was of significant national importance, requiring substantial investment by the State. DBM would have a significant impact on socio-economic development and the development of the information technology (IT) sector in South Africa. The Committee had heard submissions on DBM on earlier occasions and the purpose of the meeting was to be briefed on the current status of implementation.

Introduction by the Minister of Communications
The Honourable Siphiwe Nyanda advised that the Department of Communications had prepared a comprehensive submission, as requested by the Committee. The Department had been keeping civil society informed and had held extensive discussions with stakeholders in the sector. He would present the briefing on recent developments and the media reports concerning the standards.

Briefing by the Department of Communications (DOC)
Mr Gift Buthelezi, Acting Deputy Director-General: ICT Policy and Mr S Manzini, Director: ICT Policy, DOC, presented the ICASA submission to the Committee (see attached document).

The presentation covered the background to BDM, the objectives of the BDM Policy, the benefits of migrating to digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasts, the key policy decisions taken, the key priorities identified, the establishment of the Digital Dzonga to oversee implementation, the manufacture of Set Top Boxes (STB), the formulation of the South African National Standard SANS 862 for STB’s, signal distribution and DTT broadcasting.

Mr Nyanda explained that the African continent and Europe were classified as Region 1 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) of the United Nations. During the World Radio Conference held in 2006, agreement was reached that Region 1 would apply the DVB-T standard for digital television broadcasts. Despite having some reservations, the Minister of Communications proposed to Cabinet in 2008 that the DVB-T standard was adopted by South Africa.

The DOC and Sentech proceeded with the implementation of DBM and conducted trials. The target date of November 2008 was set for Sentech to commence with dual illumination (i.e. broadcasting in both analogue and digital format). Sentech had invested in providing the infrastructure required, based on the DVB-T standard.

The DVB-T standard had evolved because of the limitations of the original standard and technological developments. A new standard was formulated, i.e. DVB-T2. Japan and Brazil had developed the ISDB-T standard. The ISDB-T standard was open-sourced, could be adapted to local requirements and no royalties were payable by countries making use of the standard.

The DOC visited Brazil to investigate, briefed the Minister and suggested that the standards applicable to DTT broadcasting were reviewed with the participation of the affected State-owned Entities (SOE’s) and the broadcasting industry. A symposium was held at which delegates from Europe, Japan and Brazil presented the three standards. There was little difference between the standards. Most of the differences concerned technical issues such as mast coverage and mobile television capability.

A Southern African Development Countries (SADC) Ministerial Conference was held in May 2010. The issue of the standards was discussed and the Ministers were briefed on the features of the three standards by the representatives from Europe, Brazil and Japan.

The decision was taken to appoint a task team to conduct an investigation into which standard would be best suited for the region, was most compatible with the existing systems of the SADC countries, was best able to deliver on the developmental objectives and would best benefit socio-economic development. The task team had to consider the extent of the investment that had already been made by stakeholders, in particular Sentech. The investigation was expected to be completed within two months.

Regardless of which standard would be adopted, certain changes would be necessary. The DOC wanted to ensure that no South Africans would be prejudiced and would be able to enjoy the maximum possible benefit.

Mr N Van den Berg (DA) questioned why the standards were being reviewed at this late stage in the process. He understood that Sentech had been working with the DVB-T standards, which operated at 8 MHz but the ISDB-T standard operated at 6 MHz. He wanted to know what the cost of changing to the ISDB-T standard would be. He understood that the cost of STB’s would be higher if the ISDB-T standard was adopted and that the retail price of the STB’s had not yet been determined. If the STB’s were too expensive, it would have a major detrimental effect on the poor. He felt that the decision to review the standard was a regression and had caused the digital migration process to be halted.

Mr Nyanda replied that South Africa had not yet formally adopted a standard. The task team was merely reviewing the standards to determine which one made the best use of the broadcasting frequency spectrum and which standard offered the best financial benefits. He had not yet informed Parliament and was waiting for the report on the results of the investigation. He wanted to ensure that the best decision was taken for the long term and that South Africa was in a position to utilise its considerable marketing power.

Ms P De Lille (ID) objected that the Members of the Committee had received the briefing documents immediately prior to the meeting and did not have sufficient time to study the information provided. She suggested that the Committee invited the representatives from Europe, Japan and Brazil to brief the Members on the aspects of the various standards and that a framework was developed that included the costs, technology and STB requirements to assist the Committee to make an informed decision on which standard would be best. She asked if it was compulsory for South Africa to adopt a particular standard and what the implications were if South Africa did not comply with the ITU agreement.

Mr Nyanda repeated the reasons for the decision to review the standards. He advised that it was not compulsory for South Africa to adopt a particular standard but there would be certain constraints, for example the entire region should apply the same standards to ensure that there would be no interference with broadcast signals.

Mr E Kholwane (ANC) referred to the comments made by various stakeholders in the submissions made to the Committee. The stakeholders had made financial investments in testing and in developing the infrastructure for digital migration. He was concerned over the additional costs that would be incurred if the applicable standard was changed. He asked if the target date of November 2011 would be affected.

Mr Nyanda conceded that the target date would be delayed and suggested that ICASA provided a more detailed response to the question. He pointed out that there were many other factors that had an impact on the target date. Any change of standard would have to be approved by the Cabinet as well.

Ms J Killian (COPE) noted that half of the dual illumination period had already expired. The Minister had indicated that implementation would be delayed and other interested parties had expressed doubt that the target date of November 2011 would be reached. She asked what the cost implications were of changing the standard and how much had been spent to date on using the DVB-T standard. She requested what was meant by the “developmental needs” of the SADC region. She felt that South Africa could not afford to waste any resources and should stick to the standard that had been adopted. She failed to understand why the adoption of a different standard was even contemplated and wondered about the justification for considering changing to the ISDB-T system developed by Japan. She asked the Minister to provide sound reasons for considering changing the standards. DBM was important and had to benefit all South Africans.

Mr Nyanda agreed that the target date would possible be changed and repeated that there were other factors applicable as well. He had been informed by several stakeholders that the target date of November 2011 was unrealistic. Implementation dates in other countries had been postponed. He was adamant that the Ministry be allowed the opportunity to conduct a proper investigation and considered all the aspects. In any event, the DVB-T2 standard currently applicable differed from the DVB-T standard adopted. He expected that there would be challenges regardless of which standard was ultimately adopted.

Mr Nyanda agreed that Sentech had made a significant financial investment in infrastructure. The expenditure already incurred was an important consideration. Adopting a different standard might not have substantial cost implications as only software changes might be necessary and the infrastructure already in place could be used. Many other standards have been developed and had to be considered when deciding which would be the best option for South Africa. The task team was merely reviewing the standards had the decision to adopt another standard had not been made. He expected that there would be s certain degree of dissent from stakeholders.

Mr Nyanda advised that there were different types of STB’s available and certain models were not expensive. The Ministry took the South African sector into account and had to consider what would benefit the consumer the most. The cost of STB’s was a major consideration as the boxes would be subsidised by Government.

Ms F Muthambi (ANC) asked for clarity on what progress had been made to date. She wanted to know what progress had been made by ICASA on the regulations for satellite broadcasts and broadcasting hubs.

Ms R Morutoa (ANC) agreed that there was a need to review the standards. She referred to the Digital Dzonga and reported that she had found that most people were not informed of what would happen if the analogue signal was switched off. She wanted to know what mechanisms would be utilised to inform the populace.

Mr Buthelezi conceded that the activities of the Dzonga had been limited and agreed that much remained to be done. The DOC had commenced extensive engagement with civil society and the industry on the technical requirements of DBM. A wide-spread campaign would be necessary, similar to the campaigns launched to create awareness of the FIFA World Cup and Y2K. The Dzonga would utilise the facilities of State-Owned Entities, the South African Post Office, clinics and police stations.

Briefing by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)
Mr Paris Mashile, Chairperson, ICASA, introduced the delegates from ICASA.

Mr R Nkuna, Councillor, ICASA, presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).

The briefing by ICASA dealt with the current status of television services in South Africa, the objective of the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy, South Africa’s international obligations, the digital terrestrial television implementation plan, the regulatory framework for BDM and DTT, the Radio Frequency Spectrum Plan for DTT, the manufacture of Set Top Boxes and the time frames for implementation.

ICASA was the industry regulator and was responsible for implementing Government policy but the necessity to comply with the international agreements was emphasised.

Mr Van den Berg found the presentation by ICASA more convincing than the argument put forward by the Minister. It was apparent that a great deal of work had already been done and he remained doubtful that it was even necessary to review the standards. There were clearly implications if a different standard was adopted, for example the manufacture of STB’s. It would be necessary to start the entire process from the beginning if a new standard was adopted. He asked how ICASA’s implementation plan would be affected. He wanted to know if ICASA favoured one of the standards over another.

Mr Mashile explained that ICASA was the regulator and was technologically neutral. The Geneva 06 Agreement (GE06) required a common technology to be used in Africa. ICASA did not recommend that South Africa deviated from the other countries in the region. South Africa had agreed to GE06 and it was highly undesirable to violate international agreements. Any standard or technology utilised by South Africa had to conform to the GE06 agreement.

The Chairperson requested clarity on the ITU agreement as the DOC had stated that the agreement had not been ratified by Parliament.

Mr Mashile explained that all the countries in the ITU Region 1 had met, discussed the standard that would apply and made an agreement to use the DVB-T standard. A country did have the right to add a footnote to the agreement if the country chose to deviate. If a country deviated from the agreement, there was no guarantee that broadcast signals would not be subject to interference. If there was interference with broadcast signals, chaos would result.

Ms Killian thanked ICASA for a sober and factual presentation. South Africa’s status in the geographical region had to be taken into consideration. She thought that it would be grossly irresponsible if South Africa deviated from the GE06 agreement and criticised the DOC for giving the Minister unconsidered advice. Many countries would be affected if South Africa applied a different standard and it would be a major problem if South Africa was isolated from the rest of the region. She regretted that the Minister had left the meeting before listening to the briefing by ICASA. She was aware of the tactics used by lobbyists but felt that the ISDB-T standard had not been proven to be better than the DVB-T standard. She was suspicious of the motivation for considering a change to the standard originally agreed upon.

Mr Kholwane pointed out that the DVB-T standard had been adopted by the Cabinet and therefore there could be no disagreement over which standard was applicable. ICASA had indicated that there were options available if South Africa wished to opt out of the original agreement. The Minister had reported on the consultations that had taken place with the other SADC countries.

Mr Mashile advised that ICASA had participated in the discussions held by the DOC and SADC concerning the European, Japanese and Brazilian standards. ICASA’s only requirement was that South Africa remained within the parameters of the GE06 agreement. The DVB-T2 standard included an upgrade of compression techniques, which allowed for greater utilisation of the spectrum and made more channels available. There were few technical differences between the two parameters. He suggested that a detailed cost-benefit analysis was done.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) asked if DSTV broadcasts would be affected and if DSTV clients would need an STB in addition to the DSTV decoder. She understood that the new generation of television sets did not require an STB.

Mr Mashile explained that the STB converted digital broadcast signals to analogue and made it possible for older television sets to receive digital signals. The new generation digital-enabled television sets (high-definition TV) were comparable to computers and no STB was required. High-definition television was spectrum-hungry and required greater bandwidth.

Mr Nkuna explained that the ITU did not demand that agreements were ratified. Each country had its own ratification processes. The GE06 agreement was not ratified by the South African Parliament but the ITU accepted any type of agreement. DSTV was a satellite transmission and not a terrestrial television broadcast. DSTV transmissions were already in digital format.

Ms S Tsebe (ANC) asked for further details of the compression techniques provided for in the DVB-T2 standard. She wanted more clarity on the implications if the applicable standard was changed. She observed that ICASA had implied in the briefing that the Minister’s thinking was not in line with the GE06 agreement and wanted to know to what extent ICASA had participated in the discussions that were held.

Mr Mashile explained that DVB-T2 included an Advanced Video Coding (AVC) feature, which allowed for more channels to be available. He stated that ICASA did not differ from the Minister and the DOC but agreed with the observation made by Mr Kholwane that only one standard had been agreed. He reiterated the Minister’s statement that the task team was merely reviewing the standards and that no decision had been taken to adopt a different standard. Although ICASA and the DOC did not always agree, the two organisations worked closely together. The DOC was fully aware on ICASA’s position concerning adherence to international agreements. ICASA could only provide information, which can be used by the Committee to reach a conclusion.

Mr Nkuna pointed out that the Minister was the custodian of policy. ICASA had to implement policy decisions. If the policy changed, ICASA had no choice but to apply the new policy direction. He suggested that the Committee verified if the GE06 agreement was valid and clarified the issue with the Minister.

Ms Morutoa was uncertain if it would be a problem if the GE06 agreement was not ratified by Parliament.

The Chairperson explained that certain international agreements and protocols had to be ratified by Parliament. The GE06 agreement had not been formally ratified and it would be necessary to determine if Parliamentary ratification was required for the agreement to be valid. He understood that the ITU considered acceptance of the agreement to be sufficient.

Mr Kholwane understood that the DOC and Sentech would be meeting on Friday, 4 June 2010 in an attempt to resolve the problems concerning the infrastructure provided by Sentech that did not conform to the ICASA regulations. He noted that the DTT regulations had been issued. He suspected that the reason for the review of the standards was based on political rather than practical considerations. The entire process needed to be followed through to ensure that all parties benefited from the BDM process. He asked if the current deadline of November 2011 would be met.

Mr Mashile advised that testing was still underway and STB’s were not yet commercially available. Everything depended on the STB’s being widely available before analogue broadcasts could be discontinued. The minimum cost of a digitally-enabled television set was R5,000, which was not affordable by most people. The dual illumination phase had not commenced. The interim target dates were already exceeded. The implementation date of digital broadcasts was extended by the United States of America and Brazil as well. There were major negative social and economic consequences if everything was not in place and a significant portion of the population was unable to receive television broadcasts.

The Chairperson asked how long it would take to be ready if a new standard was decided upon.

Mr Mashile estimated that an additional period of six months would be required but the timeframe would be affected by the extent of the changes.

Mr Nkuna pointed out that the systems of the neighbouring countries had to be in line as well. All stakeholders had to be involved in determining the timeframe for implementation.

Briefing by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)
Ms P Nzimande, Chief Procurement Officer, SABC introduced the delegates from the SABC and advised that the Corporation had been actively involved in the DTT implementation process. The presentation to the Committee included the experienced gained to date.

Mr Yusuf Nabee, DTT Project Leader, SABC presented the submission from the SABC (see attached document).

The briefing by the SABC included the five critical success factors identified, i.e. more channels, the affordability of Set Top Boxes, education and marketing, customer support and coverage. The presentation explained the DTT value chain, the phases of the digital migration process, the pilot programme undertaken by the SABC, the lessons learnt from the pilot programme, the impact of delays in implementation and the critical issues that had to be resolved prior to the implementation date.

Mr Zweli Mthembu, Advisor, SABC expressed concern over the threat to the financial viability of the SABC if the implementation of DTT was delayed. The SABC already faced increased competition from other broadcasting entities.

Ms De Lille understood that STB’s would be manufactured in South Africa. She asked which STB’s were used in the pilot project, where the STB’s were manufactured and what the cost of the STB’s was. She wanted to know if the timeframes included the manufacture of STB’s, which had been identified as a key factor in the implementation of DTT.

Mr Nabee advised that STB’s were being manufactured by two South African companies. The STB’s were in accordance with the DVB-T standard and the cost of the STB’s used in the pilot programme was R700 each. The STB’s had to conform to the SANS 862 standard developed by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). He understood that production for retail purposes could commence within six to nine months. The STB’s were not yet available for retail purposes.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen asked for more information on the pilot project. She asked what services would be available and were tested. She wanted to know what services for disabled persons were included. She remarked that there was a problem with receiving television signals in certain remote areas of the country, for example the Northern Cape, and asked why the pilot project was not tested in remote locations.

Mr Nabee confirmed that the pilot project included services for disabled persons. Extensive research had been conducted into the requirements of disabled persons and the feedback received had been taken into consideration. Certain services were tested during the pilot project. DTT offered more services for disabled persons, for example multiple sub-titles.

Mr Mthembu offered to provide a copy of the report on the pilot project to the Committee. He conceded that the spectrum in the Northern Cape was limited as a result of financial constraints.

The Chairperson asked if the pilot programme would have to be repeated if the standard was changed. He asked what the SABC would need to do if a different standard became applicable and what length of time would be required.

Mr Mthembu replied that all depended on the nature of the changes required. The results of the task team review were required before the implications could be determined.

Ms Morutoa asked if the SABC had informed the Minister of the results of the pilot project. She wanted to know how the manufacturers of the STB’s were appointed.

Mr Nabee confirmed that the report on the pilot project was submitted to the DOC. The SABC was submitting regular progress reports as well. The appointment of the STB manufacturers was made after following the prescribed tender processes.

Briefing by Sentech
Mr Qurash Patel, Chairperson, Sentech introduced the delegates from Sentech and gave an overview of the purpose and objectives of the submission.

Mr Dingane Dube, Sentech presented the briefing by Sentech (see attached document).

The briefing covered the utilisation of the funds made available to date (R625 million of the total allocation of R1.3 billion), the regulatory, technological, commercial and financial challenges, the mitigating factors applied and the progress made to date. Currently, coverage was provided for 33% of the population and Sentech planned to increase coverage to 60% by March 2011.

The presentation highlighted the differences in the interpretation of the relevant provisions in the Electronic Communications Act and the Sentech Act between ICASA and Sentech. Sentech was perturbed by the implications of the regulations published by ICASA, which differed from the standards applied by Sentech for the infrastructure already provided.

The presentation was concluded with a summary of the achievements to date and the outstanding challenges.

Mr Van den Berg expressed concern over the differences between Sentech and ICASA. He did not understand why the two entities had not communicated with each other and resolved the issues. The implementation of BDM was of national importance and Sentech had only managed to achieve a 33% coverage rate. He felt that the situation needed to be resolved as a matter of urgency and asked what Sentech planned to do about the matter.

Mr Dube explained that Sentech had requested the frequency plan from ICASA in 2007, when Cabinet had determined the target date of November 2008. Sentech was advised by ICASA that the Authority was unable to assist as a policy had not been formulated. Sentech subsequently made a written submission to the Minister to request his intervention, as access to the frequency plan was essential if the target date of November 2008 was to be met.

Mr Patel advised that the DOC was facilitating a meeting on 4 June 2010 in an attempt to resolve the issues.

Ms De Lille observed that the matter extended beyond a mere disagreement between Sentech and ICASA. It would appear that the legal interpretation of the ECA and the Sentech Act differed between the two entities. The matter could have been referred to the court for adjudication. Sentech can not assume that the ICASA interpretation was incorrect because of the impact on Sentech.

The Chairperson understood that the infrastructure provided by Sentech was found not to conform to the regulations subsequently issued by ICASA. He asked what the implications of non-conformance were.

Mr Kholwane commented that if there was a problem with the interpretation of the applicable legislation, the Acts could be amended if necessary. SOE’s were required to carry out Cabinet decisions and policies. Sentech had started to provide infrastructure before the policy and regulations were finalised and found that the requirements differed from what was anticipated. The DOC could not be expected to take responsibility for the problem between Sentech and ICASA. He asked how much would have to be spent changing the infrastructure already in place to conform to the requirements. He was concerned over the continued financial viability of Sentech.

Mr Patel explained that the ICASA plan required additional sites, which would require additional capital expenditure. He suggested that the plan developed by Sentech was retained.

Mr Dube added that the BDM policy required Sentech to comply with a different model than was originally developed.

Ms De Lille understood that Sentech’s problem was the result of proceeding with the infrastructure before the policy and regulations were finalised. Sentech found that the infrastructure was non-compliant when the regulations were issued and should have informed Parliament at the time. It was essential that a solution was found to resolve the issues as legislative amendments could not be applied retrospectively.

The Chairperson said that the problem could not be solved during the meeting. It was an important issue and Sentech had to comply with any standard that was adopted. He suggested that the Committee awaited the outcome of the meeting between the DOC, Sentech and ICASA scheduled for 4 June 2010. He thanked the delegates for their participation in the briefing to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

Copyright © Parliamentary Monitoring Group, South Africa

Friday, June 4, 2010

From the Mail&Guardian: DG slammed over digital TV U-turn


Broadcasting sector players have lambasted communications director general Mamodupi Mohlala for her announcement this week that the European digital television technology DVB-T is likely to be abandoned.

Mohlala's announcement, reported in an exclusive interview she gave to technology news website Tech Central, came just a day after Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda assured Parliament that no decision had been taken yet to abandon the DVB-T standard.

The communications department left the broadcasting industry in an uproar in April by announcing that it intended considering the Japanese ISDB-T technology.

South Africa decided in 2006 to go with the European model, while Nyanda's digital broadcasting migration policy was gazetted in 2008. Local industry has invested millions of rands in developing set-top boxes and running trials of European technology.

Mohlala is reported as saying that the DVB-T standard is "problematic" and that a decision must be made between the newer European standard, DVB-T2, and ISDB-T.

However, industry insiders insisted that Mohlala's claims that DVB-T was "problematic" were "bullshit", arguing that the European and Japanese technologies were comparable.

Industry players argue that more than 120 countries have adopted DVB-T and more than 40 have implemented it so we would know if millions of TV viewers across the globe have problems and if indeed the technology was "problematic".

"They [the department] are opening the door for change and through that door they'll push ISDB-T," said one insider. "Someone is pushing ISDB-T in the department and it appears to be the DG."

"The DG and the minister aren't singing from the same hymn book," said another insider. "We appear to have a new era of policymaking by interview."

The department appears to have gone to ground, failing to respond to the Mail & Guardian's questions for two weeks.

Another source said that if Mohlala had her own way, she would move immediately to ISDB-T. "It's shocking," said the insider. "It looks like a foregone conclusion."

Industry sources argue that the Japanese technology has never been used in the 8MHz spectrum band which South Africa employs and that no chip-set or set-top boxes have been manufactured for the band. Both Japan and Brazil, the major countries that use ISDB-T, use the 6MHz band.

The implication is that the manufacture of the set-top boxes will not benefit from economies of scale and will be more expensive.

Mohlala led a departmental trip to Brazil to assess the Japanese technology. The M&G spoke to numerous sources familiar with the trip, who claimed that two Icasa councillors and two middle-management SABC staffers accompanied Mohlala, deputy director general Gift Buthelezi and other department officials.

Sources said that the SABC and Icasa representatives were far more sceptical about the ISDB-T technology than the department officials, who were won over.

They added that when the former pressed the Brazilians about the use of ISDB-T in the 8MHz spectrum band, the department officials became irritated by the line of questioning. "It was clear that there was fallout between the two groups," said a source.

The sources also said they had heard that the SABC and Icasa delegates were excluded from some meetings with Brazilian officials. "My sense is that the Japanese and Brazilians have been promising massive investment in South Africa," said one.

Earlier in the week industry players slammed Nyanda's defence of the Japanese technology before Parliament's communications committee on Tuesday, calling it "ludicrous". "It would seem that either the minister's advisers are completely confused about the technologies, or he is," said one.

Nyanda argued that Europe's DVBT technology was "obsolete" and had "limitations", adding that the issue of digital broadcasting technology was discussed at a SADC ministers' conference two weeks ago, where it was decided that a two-month investigation should determine what suited the region best.

"It's important that, as a region, we move together on adopting a standard," he said, adding that a task team was investigating digital broadcasting technology, including Japan's ISDB-T, and would report back to the Cabinet.

A small Japanese delegation was present at the briefing.

However, an industry insider said that at a Communications Regulators' Association of Southern Africa meeting in April, SADC neighbours were "horrified" that South Africa is punting the Japanese technology at such a late stage in the process.

Industry sources said that Namibia, Tanzania and Mauritius had all already launched the DVBT technology and would be severely prejudiced by a contrary decision so late in the day.

They also said that the two technologies had very similar capabilities, and that Europe's DVB-T was not obsolete. In addition, there was no rush to replace DVB-T networks with second-generation DVB-T2 networks in Europe.

Local industrialists argued strongly that if the department really wanted to consider a more advanced technology, it should look at DVB-T2. This was "leaps and bounds" ahead of both other options, allowing for double the number of channels.

They said that DVB-T2 set-top boxes launched in the UK in January this year had fallen in price from $300 (R2 290) to $130 (R992) and were already cheaper than their Japanese counterparts.

They also insisted that changing the technology standard would not delay digital migration by a few months, as claimed, but by between three and five years.

Last week the M&G reported that questions have been raised about the role that former ambassador to Japan and current SABC chairperson Ben Ngubane has played in lobbying for the adoption of the Japanese technology.

The M&G reported on a meeting between Ngubane and a Japanese delegation at which the benefits of the ISDB-T technology were presented to him. Sources told the M&G that two weeks after this encounter Ngubane set up a meeting between SABC chief executive Solly Mokoetle and the Japanese. Ngubane has denied facilitating this meeting, and that he has lobbied for the Japanese offering.


From the BusinessDay: The SABC finally loses it

Editorial, Business Day, Johannesburg, 4 June 2010

There was some reason to hope, as the administration of President Jacob Zuma took office last year, that the era of idiocy at the SABC might be over. Retired general Siphiwe Nyanda, the new communications minister, was, after all, a military man who could knock together the heads of warring managers and directors at the broadcaster.

Or could he? Sadly, it seems not. Not only has the SABC taken a year to name a head of news, it has compounded its incompetence by naming one without consulting the board of directors so painstakingly constructed to do the job by the government itself.

And now we hear that the SABC, in the middle of a deep financial crisis from which it is being rescued by taxpayers, has spent more than R3m buying World Cup soccer tickets!

How mad can this organisation get? Its spokesman phoned in to a radio show yesterday to “explain” that these tickets were vital to the future of the broadcaster because they would be used to entertain the people who advertise on the SABC’s radio stations and TV channels. You have to understand, he kept on saying, that without advertising there is no revenue and therefore no SABC.

That may be true, but advertisers follow audiences and if the SABC was producing content that audiences actually wanted to watch or listen to, the advertising would follow. It does not require bribery on this scale to keep advertisers loyal.

On the matter of the appointment of a head of news without board consent, it is equally hard to imagine anything more crass and amateurish a political ploy. Gen Nyanda should be ashamed of himself for allowing it to happen and he must make sure the board is able to make a collective decision, as is its right.

Gen Nyanda was looking, a few months ago, for a special tax to finance the SABC through its financial recovery and beyond. But the old soldier must be out of his head of he thinks for a moment that anyone is going to put a hand in their pocket to finance an institution that has, unbelievably, sunk into even greater insanity than when it was run by Essop Pahad.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

SASFED Newsletter – 02 June 2010

Dear Friends of SASFED,

We have not sent an update for a long time, but felt it was certainly time to do so now.

As you are probably aware, despite a continuous effort by many tireless volunteers in our organised industry, and via many of our industry organisations, we are not much better off with especially the SABC than we were almost two years ago! And that’s not because we have not been trying… boy have we been trying and investing a HUGE amount of time in this, even accomplishing much, like getting a new SABC board in place (more on that later)!

For those who don’t know, the IPO (Independent Producers Organisation) with whom the TPA merged last year now is also member of SASFED! IPO decided at its AGM to join SASFED []. SASFED welcomed them [], and we are already proceeding as a truly united industry on many new issues. SASFED is much stronger for the experience and guidance of the producers, who after all represent the business side of our industry.

Other good news: it now appears as if most of the long outstanding payments to independents have now been made (not all of them… but at least most). The TVIEC is continuing to chase this and relies on updates from you, so please send them to:

The bad news is unfortunately so much more: from an ever-changing executive to the never-ending power struggles within the SABC board, [] & [], within the SABC and even between government and the SABC! Most recently SOS [] and others [] have even called for the Chair of the new SABC board to resign! Even more scandal on this story is that it seems SABC is itself interfering in what news it publishes on the matter, even stopping news issued by its Board []!

Add to that the totally unbalanced working framework with independents and that no new RFP’s have been offered by the SABC in almost 2 years, despite a previous commitment from the new board that they would be published in May 2010, and we do not look like an attractive business sector to be in at present! More on this scandal will follow soon… so watch the blog!

With the lack of local content being produced at present, and total lack of planning for the next few years, how is the SABC possibly keeping in compliance of ICASA’s local content quotas, the very quotas that make the public broadcaster have to produce far more local content than any other broadcaster? The very quotas on which our industry has come to rely for its existence! Evidence is clear that ICASA is doing nothing on any of the issues of lack of compliance with SABC or for that matter other broadcasters. They are repeatedly seen as weak, and toothless, and need to be brought back on track. []

ICASA claimed to be working to help equalise the playing field, by publishing their typically fairly “toothless” “Regulations on the Commission of Independent produced South African Programming… “on the 1st of December last year. These very regulations however require that within 120 days of promulgation of the regulations (i.e. the 31 March 2010 or is business days is used 26 May), all broadcasters are required to submit their proposed ‘commissioning protocol’, which would have to describe the entire commissioning process, and ensure it follows a pre-published timeline, and is simple, fair and transparent. These broadcasters ‘commissioning protocol’ documents, would then be reviewed by ICASA within 30 days and then be published on the broadcasters websites. Ok, so we are surely saying that by 30 April 2010 (or any day soon is business days are used) all should have been filed, done and dusted? Why then are we still waiting a month later for the first of the broadcasters to comply with this new regulation and publish anything? Goodness… why possibly would we then assume they take any notice of older regulations, such as the all important Local Content Quotes, which by ICASA’s own admission they have to date had no means to ensure compliance of?

What of the ‘new’ broadcasters? We see M-Net adding to their bouquet with Mzansi Magic (focusing on local content) issuing a request for proposals [], ODM launching Top TV (who will soon be commissioning) and now Super 5 Media launching soon, but these are all Satalite Television Broadcasters, who are only required to have a minimum of 10% of their "Programming Spend" allocated to South African Television Content. Compare that to the minimum weekly average of 55% for Public and Community Television Broadcasting (incl SABC 1&2) and that repeats count only once at half the programs length (once for same channel repeat, once for an omnibus, and also once for a repeat on another broadcaster is allowed… after that nothing … ever again), counted within the hours of 05h00 till 23h00, and you will see why they have the lions share of our business, and why their lack of commissioning means they can’t possibly be in compliance now! Certainly our independent test confirmed they are WAY under for a full month we monitored, and we are now looking at a class action against the monitoring division of ICASA (we need ICASA and a strong ICASA, but clearly their monitoring and compliance is NOT up to scratch).

Despite this do we see any of the broadcasters, who face increasing small budgets adopt global best practice and recognise producers rights to own what they develop and create on risk, even if responding to a “RFP”? When do we see the definition of a “commission” change to that of global best practice where, by default, producers own these rights, not the broadcaster? The respective industry bodies within SASFED (lead especially by the IPO), supported by bodies such as the National Film and Video Foundation have made it clear that new plans have to be implemented regarding broadcasters partnering independent producers so that government monetary incentives can be utilised (DTI rebate etc). In short, relaxing the Intellectual Property regime at South African broadcasters and bringing this in line with global best practice would increase what budget the broadcasters do have available for programming.

The World Cup was supposed to bring us all a great boost to the economy, but even this has not materialised on the whole, with broadcasters focusing on covering the large rights costs paid to FIFA, and have issued a strong priority for covering the World Cup, rather than commissioning any new local content? Remember a foreign production company, HBS, provides FIFA television feeds to the SABC ready-made. []. If nothing else our smaller shoots are now enjoying easier access to locations under pressure from international teams shooting around the World Cup. []

And finally, what of the requirement for independently produced programming in the ICASA ‘SA Local Content Regulations of 2006’ which clearly indicate the requirement for an even spread between the genres of Arts, Drama, Documentary, Information Knowledge Building, Children’s and Educational Programming? Has anybody kept tabs of the one or two half hour Documentary slots on SABC 1 a month of late? How can this possibly be considered an “even spread” of genres?

So what do we have to look forward to … well, perhaps short of the ever-improving DTI rebate, and some possible changes to DTI incentives as a whole for our industry sector, very little. Our industry, which was clearly earmarked for fast tracking by government, has in fact been sidetracked.

Even Provincial Film Commissions such as the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) look likely to be reduced in capacity and restructured with far less money. [] & []. This only moments after SASFED’s engagement helped cancel a strange 3 million US Dollar annual deal with CNBC Africa which saw the GFC spending more than half of its budget on this one line-item. [] NFVF is not helping us much either, and even their budgets are being cut by the Department of Arts and Culture, plagued by internal audits, and corruption allegations. The same department which have ignored our industries submissions since October 2009 [], short of a peculiar last minute ‘mass engagement’ with the president [].

Well what’s new? We have an industry in crisis, corruption, and suspensions at every level within the public broadcaster and even within certain sections in government (really those which most affect us like DAC), cost cutting measures in other areas of provisional and national government which reduce our industries capacity further (NFVF/GFC etc), a lack of certainty on anything, let alone the future, no rights in what we create for broadcasters and a lack of new business in the foreseeable future.

What can we do?

  • Find other business we are capable of, with a better future?
  • Immigrate to another country?
  • Take up positions within a new broadcaster (if you can get them)?

  • Do we continue to fight, and fight harder! To fight harder however, we need YOU! It’s time to get more involved and help those volunteers who are near exhaustion, and to join in defending an industry still at the verge of collapse!

Let’s not re-invent the wheel, and start from scratch… we have leant a lot and those tireless volunteers, have great history on why things that have been tried before have failed.

Join in an area you feel passionate about like Carolyn Carew who has just been appointed to MAPPP SETA Board as SASFED representative! We clearly need more SETA engagement, and Carolyn is an ideal person to do this for our industry. []


In addition to all the above links, so much has been happening that we will provide links to some recent highlights from the blog for you, but as usual we suggest you keep an eye on it regularly

AMAA (The African Movie Academy Awards) Call for nominations – 2011

Nominations from all stakeholders are welcome and open from the 29th May 2010 - 30th November 2010.


Release of - 24TH MAY 2010

More stories on the Furore over the Appointment of the SABC Head of News and the resulting battle with the SABC Board and its Chair can be seen at:

SAGE acronym evening

The South African Guild of Editors invites you to an evening where they honour this year's recipients to use the SAGE Acronym as recognition of their achievements in the craft of editing. Date: Thursday 3rd June 2010

Guide to the World Cup

A useful guide regarding everything members need to know about the World Cup!

Appointment of IPO Co-Chairs, Treasurer and Convenors of Sub-Committees

Chairperson: Desiree Markgraaff and Tendeka Matatu will co-chair the IPO this year.
Treasurer: Eileen Sandrock & Charlene Govender
DTI/SARS Sub-Commitee: Kevin Fleischer
Long Form Sub-Committee: TBC
Broadcast Sub-Committee Co-Convenors: Harriet Gavshon and Lodi Matsetela
IP Sub-Committee : Rehad Desai
B-BBEE Sub-Committee: Marvin Saven
NFVF Sub-Committee: Ramadan Suleman
The following people have been co-opted:
Richard Nosworthy
Ben Horowitz
Mfundi Vundla

From SOS: Communications Minister dissolves Digital Dzonga Advisory Council

The Daily Maverick - CNBC Africa: compromised past, uncertain future

The revelation that local broadcaster CNBC Africa has been getting around R25-million a year from the Gauteng government almost went unnoticed by the local press. Question is, what kind of information have they been feeding us since they launched?

About SASFED and their affiliations

SASFED is The South African Screen Federation, representing the interest of most film and television industry organisations as a collective federation.

Full SASFED Member Organisations: DFA - The Documentary Filmmakers Association / IPO - The Independent Producers Organisation / OSCA SA - The Official South African Casting Association / PMA - The Personal Managers' Association / SAGA - South African Guild of Actors / SAGE - South African Guild of Editors / WGSA – Writers’ Guild of South Africa / WIFTSA - Women in Film and Television SA / WOS - Women of the Sun

SASFED is also formally affiliated to: FEPACI - Pan African Federation of Film – Makers / SOS: Supporting Public Broadcasting / TVIEC - Television Industry Emergency Coalition

All the best,