Pubcaster gets the word

Icasa grants licenses with restrictions for proposed channels

JOHANNESBURG — The South African Broadcasting Corp. has a greenlight to launch two regional indigenous language TV stations.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) last week granted the pubcaster licenses for the two proposed channels, SABC 4 and SABC 5, but refused to issue them until SABC arranged funding.

Icasa chairman Mandla Langa says English would not be allowed as a language on either channel to promote indigenous programming. The only exceptions will be sound bites on current affairs or news programs in which a person being interviewed spoke in English.

In an about face, Langa says the channels would be allowed to carry commercials since it was clear that financing would be a problem without the income.

SABC spokesman Paul Setsetse welcomed Icasa’s decision, although the pubcaster had some concerns about the feasibility of operating the channels without commissioning English programming.

“We will need to evaluate how it will impact on the program and schedule strategies of the channels and particularly the use of multilingual programs using English,” Setsetse says. “Now, that the licenses have been granted, the challenge is to secure funding.”

Setsetse says once the funding is in place, the SABC expects it to take at least 18 months before the rollout of the transmitter network.

As part of its indigenous language drive, Icasa also announced increased indigenous language quotas for the pubcaster’s SABC 1 and SABC 2 channels.

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