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Broadcast body aims to license payboxes

Dispatch

JOHANNESBURG — The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s long-awaited discussion paper on pay TV was launched on April 23.

The regulator has been probing the issue for the past year with the aim of broadening the subscription market and creating a badly needed licensing framework for this industry, which is operating in a vacuum.

M-Net is the only licensed subscription TV service, having gained its license as a one-off from the government in 1986 before Icasa existed. At the time, the only other broadcaster was pubcaster SABC.

It aims at the top end of the market and has around 1 million subscribers.

However, others are now operating. These include Multichoice’s DSTV, Sentech (Vivid), Orbicom (Business Television), Comutanet (Rank TV), Africa Growth Network and Intl. Gaming Network.

Icasa has merely given these “permission” to continue. It says Multi-Choice Africa, which also targets the top end of the market, is the most successful player in Africa with 1.3-million subscribers in Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

The regulator wants to expand pay TV to the medium and lower ends of the market with the use of cable and digital technologies.

Icasa hopes to have the new policy in place by end-2005.