Icasa to pressure Sentech - TechCentral

Icasa to pressure Sentech

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Digital terrestrial television must be “affordable” for consumers and the “significant market power” of broadcasting signal distributor Sentech must be addressed with “pro-competitive remedies”, says the company’s regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

Icasa markets and competition GM Pieter Grootes says digital television must not be priced out of reach of current and future South African broadcasters.

“SABC, e.tv and any future broadcasters must face cost-orientated prices,” he says.

Grootes was speaking at a media briefing on Friday on Icasa’s new “cost to communicate” initiative, in terms of which it plans to investigate whether South Africans pay too much for communications services.

Icasa on Friday published the “broadcasting wholesale transmission services findings” document in the Government Gazette on Friday. Because Sentech controls signal distribution in South Africa, it has “significant market power”, Grootes says. Pro-competitive remedies will be introduced to make it easier for new entrants in the broadcast market.

The proposed remedies will be “a form of price regulation” to ensure broadcasters aren’t burdened with prohibitively high fees for signal distribution.

“For community radio stations, it’s often cheaper to build their own infrastructure than to rely on Sentech,” Grootes says. “But few companies are going to them offering to set up radio network infrastructure.”

Icasa has asked Sentech to furnish it with details of its cost model for digital television, as well as rate card, before 27 June. Thereafter, it intends publishing draft regulations for public comment in December, holding public hearings in March 2014, and publishing final regulations in May 2014.

The authority is also busy with a local content review intended to determine how much advertising revenue local content generates. “It might be high cost to produce [local content], but it might be profitable, too,” Grootes says.

This information is important because local content quotas form part of the discussion around digital television, and particularly around new entrants. Various quotas have been proposed for newcomers, with would-be entrants like Kagiso Media arguing that the proposed quotas are not appropriate in a multichannel digital environment. Instead, Kagiso wants quotas to be enforced only on incumbents.  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

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