Communications regulator Icasa has promised that its investigation into South Africa’s pay-television industry will be comprehensive and that it will work with the competition authorities during the probe.
Icasa councilor Katharina Pillay, who will chair the committee that has been appointed to probe the matter, said at a media briefing on Friday that the authority has the “responsibility to ensure that all communications and broadcasting service markets are open, competitive and sustainable”.
“This inquiry is intended to address concerns raised by industry stakeholders as well as for the authority to determine why, despite multiple attempts to introduce competition in the subscription broadcasting market, only two licensees have been able to launch services and the two entrants have been plagued by sustainability challenges and the others have not yet begun operations,” Pillay said in prepared remarks at the briefing.
She said the launch of digital terrestrial television will create new opportunities for market entry. “However, the opportunities can only be exploited in a market that enables competition.”
During the probe, Icasa will gather information through questionnaires with industry stakeholders, meetings and written submissions, which it expects will provide it with a snapshot of the market. It intends publishing a discussion document for public comment and later a findings document.
Questionnaires will be published on Icasa’s website next week.
Pillay will be supported on the committee by fellow councillors Nomvuyiso Batyi and Botlenyana Mokhele, who will serve as deputy chairs.
Asked by TechCentral why Icasa is conducting the investigation only now, given a number of failures of new pay-TV entrants stretching over almost 10 years, Pillay said Icasa has been looking at the problem for some time. “We have done our own investigations — it’s been a process [and] regulatory processes are never quick,” she said.
She added that Icasa needs to ensure it has done its research properly before it considers any interventions, or before it licenses new pay-TV operators.
“There’s little point in licensing people if they can’t take off,” she said, but denied Icasa is placing a moratorium on the licensing of new players. “If you note our business plan for the current financial year, we don’t have [licensing on it], so we wouldn’t have been licensing anyway.”
She said Icasa has a wide-ranging memorandum of understanding with the Competition Commission and will work with the commission during its investigations. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media