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New satellite TV service not licensed

2013-07-23 11:11
Cape Town – A new South African satellite TV provider Platco Digital wants to start a new direct-to-home (DTH) TV offering to viewers in October but isn't licensed to do so yet as required by South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa.

Platco Digital with its head office in Johannesburg is backed by e.tv's parent company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI). HCI owns Sabido Investments, which holds a 67% interest in Platco Digital and a 63% stake in e.tv. Platco Digital is however a separate company housed in a separate building.

Platco Digital has big plans to start a free satellite TV service with multiple free-to-air standard definition and high definition TV channels which only acquires a once-off installation cost of around R2 000.

The service would need to get licensed before it starts broadcasting with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), which makes an October starting date unlikely. Platco Digital doesn't currently have such a licence.

'OpenView HD not one of the applicants'

Starting today, Icasa is having public hearings for five possible new licences for new pay-TV broadcasting services with Kagiso TV, Siyaya Free to Air, Mindset Media Enterprises, Close-T Broadcasting Network and Mobile TV who've made the necessary applications in 2012 already.

These presentations are all for subscription television however and not for any free-to-air TV services. There isn't any free-to-air TV service licence hearing scheduled on the Icasa diary.

"The authority is not aware of any launch of a new satellite television service," Icasa told Channel24 on Monday.

"Icasa will be having public hearings in respect of the applications received for individual commercial subscription broadcasting services this week.  This process follows the invitation to apply by the authority in 2012 whereby the authority received five applications."

"OpenView HD is not one of the applicants for this particular licensing process and the law is very clear that no broadcasting service can be provided without a valid broadcasting service licence issued by Icasa in terms of the Electronic Communication Act."

Platco Digital says that "in any territory where it operates, Platco Digital will work with licensed broadcasters to provide viewers access to channels licensed to operate in those territories. Platco Digital will therefore always be in compliance with national broadcasting laws and regulations.

"Platco Digital's South African direct-to-home (DTH) platform, OpenView HD, will not be engaging in any licensable activities on its own behalf as it merely provides technical platform services to licensed free-to-air broadcasters on the basis of their existing licences," says Platco.

No information yet

In a statement Platco says it wants to "provide carriage to licensed free TV broadcasts locally and the rest of Africa". The company has uplink facilities in Cape Town and aims to acquire as many channels as possible "to ensure sustainability and will offer both standard and high definition".

Besides Platco Digital's OpenView HD initiative, e.tv is separately still committed to run a free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel offering working in conjunction with the SABC to make available TV channel clusters broadcasting digitally when South Africa eventually switched from analogue to digital broadcasting, a long-delayed process known as digital migration.

Platco Digital spokesperson Zenzele Bam declined to answer specific questions around OpenView HD such as whether Platco Digital is licensed to start this service, what the service will cost, and how many channels and what type of channels are envisioned for the platform.

A national roadshow is taking place this week for installers and distributors of OpenView HD to which press has not been invited.

Read more on:    e.tv  |  tv

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