A broadcasting consortium, backed high-profile shareholders, including former Telkom chairman Shirley Lue Arnold, is up in arms over what it suspects was a serious breach in procedure by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).
The Mobile TV Consortium, which is controlled by businessman Richard Moloko’s Moloko Investment Group, and whose shareholders include the JSE-listed African Media Entertainment, is worried that Icasa accepted an application for a licence more than half an hour after the 4pm deadline in 7 May 2010.
Up for grabs are two potentially lucrative digital mobile TV licences. Icasa wants to issue the licences for the digital video broadcasting handheld (DVB-H) technology before the 2010 soccer World Cup, which kicks off on 11 June.
But Mothobi Mutloatse, founder of Mobile TV Consortium member company Narevest, says he has strong reason to believe MultiChoice submitted its application late and he now wants Icasa to state publicly that it has rejected the application because of this or at least to provide more information.
TechCentral reported on Wednesday that the Mobile TV Consortium had lodged a complaint against Icasa with the Public Protector’s office in Johannesburg. “There is a serious and fundamental issue regarding due process and fairness,” Mutloatse said on Wednesday.
“If MultiChoice was late with its submission there can be no special favours, especially since MultiChoice opposed an urgent interdict [brought by the Mobile TV Consortium] against Icasa’s proposed timelines for the invitation to apply for the licence,” he said.
It’s understood that at least three companies have submitted bids for the mobile TV licences. They include new pay-TV operator Super 5 Media, the Mobile TV Consortium and dominant pay-TV operator MultiChoice.
Mutloatse says he was present at Icasa at 3.40pm to submit the Mobile TV Consortium’s bid. He says a representative from MultiChoice arrived only at about 4.15pm with the broadcaster’s application.
“We are saying to Icasa: provide evidence as to who submitted what and at what time,” he says.
He says Icasa has told the Mobile TV Consortium to lodge a formal application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act if it wants further detail.
“We had no alternative but to resort to going to the Public Protector for information,” Mutloatse said. “It’s in the public interest to find out what happened and why.”
Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka had not responded to written questions from TechCentral by the time of publication.
And MultiChoice GM for corporate affairs Jackie Rakitla denies the claim that the company lodged its application with Icasa after the 4pm deadline.
Rakitla says also that the Mobile TV Consortium is not eligible to apply for a mobile TV licence as it does not have a broadcasting service licence as required under the terms of Icasa’s invitation to apply. “This was confirmed in a recent final order of the high court,” Rakitla says. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral