ICASA announced that Kwese has successfully applied for a free-to-air television broadcasting licence.
This means the company will be allowed to launch free-to-air TV services, like those operated by the SABC and Etv, in South Africa.
ICASA previously issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for free-to-air TV licences in 2014, but disqualified all respondents in 2016.
The regulator said at the time that there was non-compliance related to foreign ownership, finances, ownership by historically-disadvantaged persons, and cross-media ownership that exceeded the regulatory provisions.
It issued a new ITA on 28 February 2017, and received applications from four companies:
- Kwese Free TV (Pty) Ltd.
- Infinity Media Networks (Pty) Ltd.
- Free to Air TV (Pty) Ltd.
- Tshwaranang Media (Pty) Ltd.
Of the four that applied, only Kwese was successful. The other three were not awarded licences for a variety of reasons.
Kwese is a video entertainment service owned by Econet Group, the same company which owns Liquid Telecom. It is known locally for launching the Kwesé Play — a streaming platform and Roku media player which offers access to a range of online channels.
However, Kwese Free TV (Pty) Ltd. is only 20% owned by Econet. Royal Bafokeng Holdings, though Royal Bafokeng Metix, holds 45%. Mosong Capital holds the other 35% of the company.
ICASA also issued Kwese Free TV with a radio frequency licence in “MUX 3”. MUX 3 is a range of frequencies for digital terrestrial television in South Africa.
The regulator confirmed that the frequencies are not available yet, and will only become available when South Africa completes its migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. Currently, the deadline for the migration is set for July 2020.
Kwese has received enough capacity for 1 HD channel and 4 SD channels.
ICASA said that the standard terms and conditions of its licences state that the licensee must commence services within 24 months of receipt of the licence.
Kwese will be allowed one extension in terms of the regulation, giving it a maximum of four years to go on air.
There is room for it to apply for an exception, however, such as the digital migration being further delayed.