Government asks S. African co. for TV help

JOHANNESBURG — The government of Southern Sudan has hired South Africa-based TV production house Urban Brew Studios to help create a national pubcaster.

Southern Sudan consists of 10 provinces in the war-ravaged country, and was given autonomy in January 2005 in a peace agreement ending 20 years of civil war. The western Darfur region of the country is still mired in conflict after peace talks broke down in October.

Under the deal, signed in the capital, Juba, Nov. 17, Urban Brew will develop Southern Sudan Television, currently received in Juba only, into a national station with new distribution infrastructure that would include direct-to-home technology, says Urban Brew’s major shareholder Zwelakhe Sisulu.

Urban Brew will also expand Radio Southern Sudan nationwide and build 10 other radio stations to cover all the provinces; train radio and television staffers; and procure, install and commission broadcasting equipment.

Sisulu was the South African Broadcasting Corp.’s first post-apartheid head, from 1994-1997, and has since become a successful businessman with interests in media, telecommunications, mining and energy.

He says discussions with the Southern Sudanese government started four years ago when he met the nation’s president, John Garang, in Kenya.

Garang died a year later in a helicopter crush, but discussions continued with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement government, culminating in the pact.

The Southern Sudan Public Service Broadcasting Act was adopted in 2006, setting out the parameters for a government-backed pubcaster that would “function independently of state, government and party political influences, and free from political bias or other interference.”

Sisulu says the agreement with Southern Sudan continued Urban Brew’s expansion on the African continent.

The company has opened an office in Kenya and is in discussions with other governments and pubcasters on the continent interested in using a model similar to the one Urban Brew is using in Southern Sudan.

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