Right of reply: Icasa responds to 'state capture' column - TechCentral

Right of reply: Icasa responds to ‘state capture’ column

TechCentral has agreed to publish the following right of reply from communications regulator Icasa to an opinion piece we ran earlier this week penned by former Icasa councillor Willie Currie and freelance writer Melody Emmett.

Icasa has noted the content of the column published by TechCentral on 20 March 2018 written by former councillor Willie Currie and freelance writer Melody Emmett entitled “State capture in broadcasting: a conspiracy of dunces”.

The statement made in the column alleges that:

“In 2015, the regulator issued an invitation to apply for new television licences on a third digital multiplex as part of the digital migration process. Infinity Media Network, the owners of ANN7, made a late submission to the licensing process. Icasa’s rules on lateness are very strict: a late submission leads to automatic disqualification and historically there has been no leeway on this. However, in this case, the Icasa council condoned the late submission by the Guptas.”

Icasa would like to respond as follows to the above statement by Currie and Emmett:

1. Icasa issued an invitation to apply (ITA) for the licensing of individual commercial free-to-air (FTA) television broadcasting Services on 29 August 2014. The closing date for this process was 1 December 2014. Following requests for extension of closing date by Kagiso Media and Video Vision, Icasa took a decision to extend the closing date to 31 March 2015 at 11am, through a general notice published in the Government Gazette.

2. Infinity Media submitted its application in response to the ITA on 31 March 2015 at 10.17am and signed the attached acknowledgement letter. There was no late submission and, as such, no need for condonation of Infinity Media’s application by Icasa as purported in the column.

3. The process referred to in the column relates to an ITA for the licensing of 45% of multiplex 3 (Mux 3) that was published by the authority on 10 September 2015 with the closing date of 30 November 2015. This process was open only to existing commercial subscription television broadcasting services licensees. Infinity Media did not qualify to participate in this licensing process because the company does not have a subscription television broadcasting licence. Infinity Media did not submit an application in response to this ITA as alleged in the article.

4. Therefore, the statements that (a) the owners of ANN7 made a submission to the licensing process for new television licences on a third digital multiplex; (b) that the applications were late; and (c) that the Icasa council condoned late applications from the Guptas contrary to Icasa’s processes are factually incorrect and a complete misrepresentation of facts by the authors.

5. Finally, on 28 February 2017, Icasa issued a composite ITA for an individual commercial FTA broadcasting service and a radio frequency spectrum licence for 55% on Mux 3 frequencies with the closing date of 30 August 2017, and later extended to 16 November 2017. This was through a notice published in the Government Gazette following a request for extension by the National Association of Broadcasters. This process is still underway and Icasa has published a list of received applications on 13 March 2018. Infinity Media is one of the applicants listed in the Government Gazette.

Icasa would like to make it clear that its processes are transparent, open and in the public interest. We will not be swayed by such columns, which are aimed at undermining our hard-earned democracy and independent regulatory processes in pursuit of personal agendas or promoting a particular propaganda and narrative which is demeaning to the people of this country. Icasa will continue to execute its mandate without fear or favour and in the public interest.  — Issued by Icasa

Willie Currie responds: The vehemence of Icasa’s response is curious and raises more questions than answers. None of the applicants were holders of television broadcasting service licences at the time of application. So the question is why Icasa did not disqualify the applicants from the outset. The question regarding late application is whether any councillor consulted with the Guptas before Icasa granted the extension. This is what the Zondo Commission must also investigate.

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