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South African e.tv to sue over license conditions

Gov't hearing postponed

JOHANNNESBURG — Embattled new South African television channel e.tv began broadcasting 24 hours a day on Monday after only limited daily broadcasts since its Oct. 1 launch.

At the same time, the station, owned by trade unions, black empowerment groups and Warner Bros. — which has a 20% stake — announced it would challenge some of its license conditions in court.

The announcement of the action in the Cape High Court comes just days before e.tv was scheduled to appear before the Broadcasting Monitoring Complaints Commission for allegedly failing to fulfill at least seven of its license conditions.

Hearing postponed

These relate to, among other things, local content, advertising requirements, multilanguage demands, information programming, children’s programming and news broadcasting. As a result of the court action, the BMCC hearing, which was scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9, has been postponed indefinitely.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority, the country’s audio-visual regulator which has lodged the complaint against e.tv, has reluctantly agreed to the postponement.

In a statement, e.tv chief executive Jonathan Procter said his station would challenge several clauses in the licensing conditions, including those about African languages broadcasting, information programming and advertising requirements.

Conditions ‘unenforceable’

Procter added that, according to legal advice, these conditions are “unenforceable.”

A media analyst condemned e.tv, saying its decision to go the court route was “outrageous.” “They are avoiding dealing with the fact that they simply haven’t met their responsibilities,” said Media Monitoring researcher William Bird. “They have broken their promise to the IBA and to the public.”

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