Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SOS and MMA Welcome SCA Judgment on DTT Encryption Saga

The SOS Coalition (SOS) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) heartily welcome the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), today, in which Judge Harris vindicated our public interest claim that the Minister of Communications acted irrationally and ultra vires in her 2015 Amendment of the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) Policy, 2008.

When SOS and MMA joined e.tv in this matter, we argued that the exclusion of encryption technology from the government-manufactured set-top box decoders (STBs) would have the manifest effect of stymieing competition by ensuring the exclusion of existing and entrant broadcasters wishing to access premium content and participate in both the free-to-air and subscription broadcasting markets. The effect of this on TV viewers in South Africa, particularly the 7 million of the 12 million TV-owning households in South Africa which rely exclusively on free-to-air TV for their information, education and entertainment needs would be denied high-quality television, unlike their wealthier counterparts who have the deep pockets to afford pay-TV services like DStv.

For us, the prospect of government actively deepening inequality in South Africa through the amendment of policy which has the manifest effect of defining the people of South Africa's access to diverse and relevant information, education and entertainment TV services of a high quality on the basis of affordability could not be allowed to continue unchallenged.

From the outset before this matter became the subject of litigation, delaying South Africa’s migration to digital terrestrial television (DTT) by over three years, we pleaded with the current Minister of Communications and her predecessors to abide by the sound and forward-looking BDM Policy as it was promulgated in 2008. We implored them to put South Africa first, and include encryption in the government manufactured STBs in order to not only protect government's investment in the STB manufacture, but also to revitalise South Africa’s broadcasting sector for the benefit of the people of South Africa, as well as to stimulate South Africa’s electronics manufacturing and content creation industries, thereby creating jobs and contributing to South Africa’s triple-burden of unemployment, inequality and poverty.

This judgment is not only a victory for e.tv, ourselves and the people of South Africa in respect of the benefits they will derive from government-manufactured STBs outfitted with encryption technology. It is also a victory for our constitutional democracy in how it reinforced two key principles underpinning the rule of law by establishing that:

the Minister’s powers to amend this aspect of the BDM Policy must be drawn from some empowering authority, which they was not as was established by the South Gauteng Division of the High Court in 2012; and
the Minister’s amendment of policy must comply with the rationality test, which she did not in respect of the BDM Policy amendment.

We thank our partners and supporters for supporting us and e.tv in challenging this matter and going the distance in ensuring that the people of South Africa do not only enjoy the full benefits that South Africa's migration to DTT are set to bring, but also in defending the rule of law in our constitutional democracy.

Issued on behalf of SOS: Support Public Broadcasting and Media Monitoring Africa

Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi
Coordinator: SOS Coalition
076 084 8077

William Bird
Director: Media Monitoring Africa

Friday, May 27, 2016

SABC calls for submissions of completed local programmes for license

Dear Producer,

SABC TV Content would like to invite you to submit completed local programmes for possible licensing across all genres. For more information kindly email  nyembet@sabc.co.zageorgele@sabc.co.za or call (011) 714 5066, (011) 714 4532 , (011) 714 6434.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Al Jazeera-Encounters Pitching Forum call for proposals

The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, in partnership with Al Jazeera, is calling African filmmakers to submit proposals for the Al Jazeera-Encounters Pitching Forum taking place in Johannesburg on Saturday, 11 June 2016. The deadline is this Friday, 27 May 2016

A maximum of 12 African filmmakers will be selected to pitch to Aloke Devichand, a senior commissioning producer in the documentaries department at Al Jazeera English.

Devichand focuses on the channel’s flagship character-led strand, Witness. Before this he helped launch a short docs strand for Al Jazeera’s digital startup, AJ+, which has become one of the world’s largest social media video publishers. Previously Aloke worked for CNN International, and for production companies making films for the BBC and Channel 4. He holds a BSc in Management from the London School of Economics and an MSc in International Public Policy from University College London.

The call is open to projects at any stage of development or production. Each selected filmmaker will have a maximum of seven minutes to pitch their film, with an additional seven minutes allocated for feedback and questions from Devichand. 

Projection equipment will be provided for those that have DVDs or other visual presentations to augment their pitch. Selected applicants who cannot attend will be able to participate via Skype.

The pitching forum has been highly successful in creating opportunities for filmmakers. Last year Al Jazeera commissioned two one-hour documentaries from projects at the forum.

Submission Details:
Interested parties should send not more than:

  • A one-page synopsis of their film
  • A one-page biography of the filmmaker and producer, including complete contact details (Skype contact, telephone number, city of residence, home and work addresses)
  • One page of further background information and/or visual treatment of the subject.
  • Links to previous works and promo of proposal, if available.

Any submissions that do not follow the strict page limitations will be disqualified.

Email your submission to pa@encounters.co.za with Al Jazeera Pitching Forum in the subject line.

Submission deadline: On or before 4pm (South African time), this Friday, 27 May 2016.

About Pitching To Witness
Witness is an immersive, character-led strand on Al Jazeera English with a focus on observational, visual storytelling.

The strand has one-hour and half-hour slots each week. The former are usually acquired or co-productions, while the latter are normally commissioned projects.

Witness looks for the following elements in their half-hour commissions:

  • A strong central character/s who ‘owns’ the film and tells their own story
  • A specific journey that the character/s are on with the potential to capture an unfolding narrative, compelling storylines and a sense of transformation
  • Actuality-driven narrative style with well-shot observational scenes and confidently crafted sequences
  • Few or no formal sit-down interviews. We prefer ‘in-situation’ interviews filmed while characters are immersed in the events driving the film
  • Films that are character-driven, rather than issue-driven, but still have a current affairs theme as a backdrop. We aim to provide depth and context to topical issues through the lived experiences of the characters
  • Docs that have a timeless quality and therefore are usually not built around fast changing news events

See http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/  to gain a sense of the Al Jazeera Witness documentary style. 

About Documentaries, Series & Stand-alone Films
There are non-strand slots for series and stand-alone documentaries of half hour and hour durations which are commissioned, acquired or co-produced. These documentaries should be by, about and from a range of people, places and perspectives, challenge dominant views and seek to reflect the human experiences and stories behind current affairs in our docs.

About Investigative Programmes
There are also weekly strands which commission ‘reportage’ - journalist-led investigative programmes, like People & Power and occasionally Africa Investigates.

About Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera English is an international news channel, with over sixty bureaux spanning six different continents. Established in 2006, it has continued to grow in reach and popularity due to its global coverage, especially from under-reported regions. The channel currently broadcasts to over 250m households across 130 countries. Its in-depth approach to journalism has won numerous awards and plaudits over the years, including RTS News Channel of the Year 2012, Freesat Best News Channel, the Columbia Journalism Award, a DuPont award, and a George Polk award.

Al Jazeera is one of the world’s leading media corporations, encompassing news, documentary and sport channels. It was the first independent news channel in the Arab world dedicated to covering and uncovering stories in the region. It is now a media network consisting of over 20 channels – Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera Balkans, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Al Jazeera Documentary, the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center, and the Al Jazeera Center for Studies. 

For more information, visit www.aljazeera.com.

Encounters documentary films' festival 2016 - dates

18th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

The 2016 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, in it's 18th year, is proud to present a slew of groundbreaking productions in its most ambitious festival to date. 

From the 2nd of June through to the 12th, we'll be bringing you everything from workshops to masterclasses, live music and podcasts, as well as a total of 39 feature films and 18 shorts; something to suit every taste. Bringing you gritty topics on affairs of state, education, body politics, space travel and virtual reality, Encounters pushes documentary and storytelling to new heights. Featuring special guests such as Rita Coburn-Whack, Simon Wood, and UK electronic band Darkstar, join us and experience documentary at it's finest. 

There are opportunities to pitch your documentary projects - see the Calls for Proposals... 

Follow the link to learn more!

Launch of the Mokolo Platform: in the spirit of African's being empowered to network with each other

All about the Mokolo Platform

by Mokolo Team

Mokolo Project, an online portal for filmmakers whose aim is to reinforce the film and multimedia sector in Africa by improving the accessibility and visibility of professionals and contents, is set for launch on May 31, 2016 in Dakar, Senegal.

The project, funded by ACP-EU and Goethe-Institut, targets film professionals as well as those who work in the industry, consumers and retailers, festivals, policies, libraries, researchers, institutions and research centres, civil societies, interested lobbyists and organisations.

By collating and aggregating content from existing relevant websites, Mokolo provides easy access to African film and audio-visual content as well as to industry-related information. This is in line with the raison d'être of its online platform connecting distribution, information and networking sites through a one-stop portal.

Set up after a meeting of African cinema and audiovisual experts and professionals at the Goethe-Institut Yaoundé in November 2010, the project derives its name from the Cameroonian capital's biggest market.

It essentially pivots on the basic premise that technology and innovation can play an important role in developing Africa's movie ecosystem. Hence it operates on the tripod of Mokolo TV, Mokolo Pro and Mokolo Database, the features of which somewhat dovetail into each other's so much that the difference between them seem to blur. The project's end-users, addressed as "Mokolizers", can log in to Mokolo pro and Mokolo TV either through their email or any of their social media accounts.

The social media networking features of these platforms focus on the interactions of Mokolizer. For instance, a Mokolizers community, on these platforms, is offered the opportunity to take a number of actions. These include adding Mokolos and reviews, which is about the content that the mokolizer can add to a film or practitioner file. "Mokolos" refer to external links, which are accompanied by a commentary while "reviews" allow rating with a justifying comment to a listing. In addition, the mokolizer can add, delete and modify its own mokolos and reviews, he can also comment or flag all mokolos and reviews.

Next are the monitoring features, which enables a Mokolizer to follow another Mokolizer with whom he shares some interests. It can also follow a film or a series file or a Practitioner file. He will receive notifications if there is activity on the monitored content. That for instance involves when the mokolizer carries out an action (comment, add a listing etc).

Also, a mokolizer can carry out actions on the followed files, notably through changing, reporting, adding mokolos or reviews, adding commentaries on the file's mokolos. In addition, there is the mokolizer space, which is dedicated to both the mokolizer who uploads his activities on the platform  and the activities of the one being followed. It contains a dashboard to view the settings of his account and to modify and view its notifications and suggestions.

The mokolo.tv platform can also suggest to a mokolizer to follow another or film files according to their interests and enable end-users or mokolizers to change their language preferences (notably English or French).

Further on mokolo.tv platform, professional files can be added by mokoloziers. These are created when a movie file is being added and they contain such basic information on a film professional as function, filmography and name. These files are public and can only be changed by moderators.

Users of the mokolo.tv platform can through search and advanced search find a film, a series, a VoD platform or a professional's public file. In case the searched files are not available on Mokolo platform, the web semantics functions help to extend the search to external sources in order to satisfy the user.

Then, the Content Reporting Feature enables users to notify the moderators of inappropriate or offensive content. Perhaps, to counter-balance the abuse potential of this function is the moderation interface feature, which provides the moderators the space to view all of the reported content, and accept / reject moderation requests made by mokolizers. Only moderators can create and delete files. These include profiles including movies, series, VoD platforms, professionals, organisations, festivals, opportunities, projects etc. To become a moderator, one needs to comply with specific requirements from the Mokolo editorial team.

Yet another feature of the platform is the API (Application Program Initiative) Rest, which allows partner platforms not only to interrogate the mokolo database but also to inject their data into it.

Similarly, the Mokolizers are also availed access to Mokolo Pro, through which they can access a number of equally interesting features. They can, for instance, get registered and link their account to a professional public profile on Mokolo.tv (if it exists).

Mokolo Pro users can create professional profiles, a kind of CV through which they can make themselves known as well as their work and different experiences.  They also have the possibility to post mokolos on their profiles and can through one of its features, called mail space, also send private messages by entering the user's name.  In the user's space, the professional is availed a list of events and opportunities. There is also the notification space, which features the users recommendations made for users, contact requests, the adding of  contacts' mokolos on their files or on the files created by the moderators and the modification of the contact files. On this platform, the professionals can manage the list of their contacts.

In addition to all these, Mokolo Project through its OER (Open Education Resource) Approach offers a comprehensive digital media literacy. This "visual literacy" goal can best be described as the competence to understand and interpret audio-visual content. It encompasses the comprehension of film and visual media as multimodal content - i.e. audio, video and text.

The acquisition of such competencies could be through the traditional classroom-based face-to-face settings and self-education in an open learning system. Thus, the Mokolo OER structure's focus is on self-learners and on such multipliers as educators or workshop leaders.

In Mokolo's definition of concepts, the term "work" alludes to any creative work in an audio-visual context like a radio programme, a TV commercial, a movie or a podcast. Then, the term "visual literacy" would embrace others like "visual thinking", "visual learning" and "visual communication".  Hence a glossary of terms (such as "communication", "contextual diversity", "culture", "skills", "hypermedia/intermedia" and "image", among others) becomes necessary.

Mokolo hopes to make its significant contribution to OER, which has been around for the past 50 years, by providing a UX (User Experience) best practice example for an OER A/V (Audio/ Video) platform, which can be used for text-based education.  This would also be through encouraging and supporting filmmakers, storytellers, photographers in their efforts to maintain and expand the diversity of educational cultures.  And given the unavailability of existing OER platforms for integration, Mokolo hopes to offer that minimum hosting capacity aimed at ensuring the general availability of the OER featured in its own educational activities.

The next phase of the Mokolo Project, which will be handled by the Mokolo Foundation, will rely on the support of its members and the German Foreign Office.

"Mokolo will only work if people use it, and know it’s created for you, and owned by you!" Marc Schwingesthe South African Film Producer on the Mokolo Executive Committee.

For more information about the platform and project, click here

R2K demands an end to SABC censorship!

The South Gauteng High Court hears the case and counter-application from 23 to 26 May of the SABC's banning of Project Spear, a documentary by filmmaker Sylvia van Vollenhoven about massive corruption in the run-up to the 1994 elections. [Blogger note: ironically it was commissioned and scheduled to be aired by SABC in 2012]

Despite being of significant public interest, our public broadcaster, which has a duty to deliver critical public interest coverage, has not only refused to show the Project Spear but has also stubbornly refused to sell the rights to the material gathered by Vollenhoven in preparing Project Spear for the series Truth Be Told.

The film traces the alleged siphoning off through corruption of R30 billion in the dying days of apartheid, helping to uncover grand scale theft of the sort we've seen after apartheid, such as the Arms Deal and Nkandla. But despite its extent, there has been a stone-cold silence around corruption and collusion between white capital and the Afrikaner Nationalist government, and while our transition to democracy and the TRC process revealed gross human rights violations and exposed the regime's brutality, little was said about the economic crimes of apartheid. Corruption greased the wheels of the secretive apartheid system, at times allowing the government to side-step sanctions and making some fabulously wealthy in the process.

Vollenhoven's documentary and other exposés give lie to the widely held but absurd idea that systematic corruption began with the ANC. But the government of democratic South Africa has not only been remarkably unwilling to look into the economic crimes of apartheid, it has even actively blocked attempts to do so, as in the case of Khulumani and their long struggle for reparations from corporate beneficiaries of apartheid.

The country's transition left in tact the social and economic power and privileges of the old elite and brought to power new business partners who move between the government and private sector - their interests are intertwined, both are beneficiaries of the status quo, and nobody is willing to rock the boat by looking into the ugly past. 

Meanwhile, the SABC has played its role in concealing the truth. This, of course, is not the first time the SABC has canned programming that is critical of the establishment. In two well-known recent examples of self-censorship, the broadcaster refused to screen a critically-acclaimed documentary about the Marikana massacre, Miners Shot Down, and pulled the hard-hitting current affairs talk show The Big Debate. SABC news has taken on an increasingly obvious pro-ANC bias, and in yet another recent controversy it was announced earlier this year that SABC radio would ban listener call-ins around election time.

The SABC has been hamstrung by mismanagement and political interference. Its notoriously incompetent COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was plucked from obscurity to pander to those above him, shows only contempt for journalists and media workers under him and has gone so far as to demand 70 percent good news. It is in this sort of thing, and in the banning of films like Project Spear, that we see the SABC's slide from public broadcaster to state broadcaster and propaganda machine.


As Right2Know, we salute FXI, Khulumani and the Legal Resource Centre in their support for Vollenhoven's important case. We urge the public to support our demand - one we have consistently made over the years - that the SABC serves the public's right to know. We want critical, public interest journalism that holds power to account, not sweetheart journalism! 

We also urge the public to watch this important documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EFGKVPKrp8&feature=youtu.be  

For more information contact:
Micah Reddy, Right2Know Media Freedom & Diversity Organiser: 083 297 3444
Busi Mtabane, R2K National Communicator: 083 329 7844

Online version: http://www.r2k.org.za/?p=6683

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A last reminder about shnit's call for entries - DEADLINE 1 JUNE 2016

Get those films in now!  

No restrictions on genre, content, language.  

Max length 40min

Remember - don't pay for entry.  Enter into the MADE IN SA National Competition and it'll automatically be entered into the International Competition too, free of charge.  Taking SA shorts to the world...

Enter here: http://buff.ly/1pCjYS1

Or submit your film on our website or on one of these common platforms:
Withoutabox, Filmfreeway, Festhome, ...

Find all information for submission under Regulations 2016 or FAQ.


Monday, May 2, 2016

SABC cancels RFP books

(For the original article click here.)

The SABC says it has established 'in-house production capabilities' to produce more of the new local content that the public broadcaster wants to put on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3, as well as some planned new 'language-based' TV channels for digital terrestrial television (DTT).

The SABC will scale back the already reduced international content on its three entertainment TV channels even further in favour of locally produced programming.

“We are getting rid of RFP book,” said Hlaudi Motsoeneng, explaining that the SABC is getting rid of its Request for Proposals book – the document it used to issue annually to the South African TV production sector specifying what shows it wanted that production companies could then pitch for.

The volume and number of international shows and movies – mostly American – on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 will be reduced even more as the public broadcaster tries to replace foreign programming with more local programming in different languages.

Since 2009 when a cash-flow crisis brought the struggling South African public broadcaster to the brink of financial collapse, the SABC the last seven years has largely given up on trying to bring its audiences contemporary international fare in the form of buzz-carrying hit shows and newer movies.

Two years ago the bulk of the international content that remained – mostly on SABC2 and SABC3 – were pushed to late prime time and late night timeslots on the SABC channels’ schedules.

On SABC2 viewers for instance have to wait until 22:00 and 23:00 to see old series and seasons of international dramas like The 4400, Smallville, The Vampire Diaires and Person of Interest, while the latest season of shows like The Amazing Race that used to be on SABC3 found a new home on pay-TV channels like The Sony Channel (DStv 127).

South African viewers who want to see a selection of the latest quality foreign fare from Britain and America in terms of documentaries, hit series, films and kids’ shows realised that they had to pay for it by becoming subscribers to available pay-TV services like MultiChoice’s DStv.
Now the SABC will cut back its already reduced international content even further.

“There are those international content, within the organisation, we have taken a decision to remove international content and come with local content,” said the SABC’s controversial chief operating officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

'Content impairment costs'

Annually the past few years, and something that’s still ongoing although decreasing, the SABC lose millions of rands in what is referred to as “content impairment costs”.

Part of this content impairment costs are international programming that the public broadcaster must buy in dollar through its acquisitions division, some of which it then fails to schedule and broadcast in time according to screening rights contracts, and then loses.

Buying less international content means a reduction on content impairment costs on the SABC’s balance sheet in favour of local content commissioned by the public broadcaster that it not only owns but can also repeat multiple times and sometimes license to other broadcaster for residual income.

Acquiring less and cutting down on its already reduced international content offering, the danger however is that the SABC’s existing relationship with various international content distributors could possibly deteriorate further.

The international TV content acquisition game is not just about what broadcaster will pay the highest broadcasting licensing fee or the most for a studio content output deal, but also about business relationships, the strength of ongoing existing relationships as well as personal dealmaking.

Hollywood studios and international content distributors will often sell shows and make output deals because of a better existing relationship with a trusted broadcaster that carries more weight.

In 2012 SABC3 for instance announced that it had the international reality show The Impossible, although in fact a better and more trusted relationship with M-Net saw the pay-TV broadcaster secure and acquire the show.

“SABC we dictate for people what kind of content they should pitch which kills the creativity within those individuals. So we are saying allow people to come with their own creativity and their own ideas so that we can compute with other broadcasters,” said Motsoeneng.

The SABC says in a press statement that it “remains committed to serving the millions of South Africans with informative, educational, entertaining and compelling content”.

Click here for more.