Icasa sifts through pay TV licence applications

Pay television licence applicants are waiting with bated breath as the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) sifts through 18 applications for subscription broadcasting to end the monopoly of MultiChoice.

And there could be more applicants. Last week Icasa called on interested parties that intended lodging written submissions and comments to do so by January 10.

Some of the applicants include Telkom Media, Khetha Media, which includes Mowana Investments, a black entity led by former regulatory head of Telkom Nkenke Kekana, Goal Technology Solutions, headed by Telecel founder Miko Rwayitare, On Digital Media, which includes Cosatu’s investment arm, Kopano ke Matla, as a shareholder, MultiChoice and Sentech in partnership with SABC.

Icasa did not put a limit on the number of licences on offer.

Khulekani Dlamini, a director at Renaissance Asset Managers, said recently that applicants faced the challenge of sourcing capital and carrying compelling and competitive content.

In its application, Sentech said a household with a monthly income of R2 500 would be able to afford a pay-television service.

But industry players have raised concerns on how the state-owned signal distributor and its sister company, the SABC, source capital while they still have huge tasks to deal with. The SABC has until early next year to raise funding for regional television channels SABC4 and SABC5 before it could be awarded the licence.

The SABC’s spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, would not reveal how the company would raise capital because "it was a confidential matter and other [companies] that have made a bid might use similar tactics".

Sentech’s external communications manager, Pranill Ramchander, said the company would fund the project from its own cash resources.

The signal distributor reported a net loss of R74 million for the year to March from a loss of R68.8 million the previous period.

One analyst said unlike other players, Sentech and the SABC already had infrastructure and content, and would not have to spend billions of rands on infrastructure roll-out.

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Icasa sifts through pay TV licence applications