SADC TV bouquet could cost R1 billion

Magreth Nunuhe

Windhoek – The set-up and launch of a complete SADC television bouquet could cost around R1 billion or more per year and would involve hiring satellites to provide uplinks and downlinks for secure cost-efficient communication to broadcasters in the region, Ellen Nanuses, the secretary-general of the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA), has said.

Nanuses said SADC designed the model concept of the bouquet with the understanding that it would be at no cost to member states and all they would have to provide is the content.

“SADC doesn’t want the member states to bear any cost of the bouquet (set-up),” she said, adding that the body had proposed setting up an independent content aggregator that would recoup the cost through advertising and other means.

According to Nanuses, the aggregator would have to apply a business model to collate all required content, including the rights to content and distribution.

The appointment of a content aggregator would be through a public process following normal procurement procedures of tendering.

The SADC TV bouquet is expected to show local content of each country and support the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting by helping member states fill up their additional capacity brought about by the technology.

All 15 SADC member states’ public broadcasters will be showcased on the regional TV bouquet and SABA has also been mandated to chart a clear purpose of the new domestic content creation.

The bouquet is to bring live domestic content, including series in domestic languages, arts and culture, sports and music, developments in the region, the rest of Africa, and more.

The SADC member states have been flirting with the idea of introducing a regional TV since 2012, aimed at facilitating regional integration, supporting protocols on universal access to information, promoting social cohesion and showcasing common heritage and culture in the region.

During the ninth SADC Digital Broadcasting Migration Forum of SADC ICT Ministers in June 2015 in Walvis Bay, Namibia, South Africa and Namibia set up a test-bed to temporarily broadcast content from some SADC countries.

Ten SADC member states provided temporary permission for their national TV channels to be part of the SADC TV bouquet pilot, which demonstrated that it is possible to implement the bouquet using a satellite system.

But content creation still remains one of the most crucial aspects in which SADC member states must hugely invest if they want to see a SADC TV bouquet come to fruition in the next few years in order to meet the elastic demand for content that is relevant to national, regional and continental constituencies.

This was established at the just ended SADC-SABA Broadcasting Forum held in Windhoek, Namibia on 25-26 September 2017, with the theme “Strategies for Stimulating Local Content Production and Creating an Enabling Environment for Sustainable Telling of Africa’s Story”.

Some of the points mooted at the forum on content creation were setting up a SABA training school where it was agreed that the member countries would partner up with UNESCO and commercial entities to establish such an institution.

Other suggestions included setting up a team to coordinate the process of finding funding sources for member states to give contribution to SABA for establishing a development fund to be used for training.

The participants also proposed the use of current capacity in the Member States for training purposes, while a coordinating committee would be necessary for the content hub and setting up of a website where content can be dropped.

According to Dr George Patrick Ah-Thew, SADC PO-Telecommunications, the SADC TV Bouquet’s legal framework is yet to be developed, which includes a code of conduct of broadcasters framework and content rights management regulations/guidelines framework based on each SADC Member State’s national requirements.

Some legal matters in the establishment of such a bouquet are the development of a content classifications framework, model on how to finance the overall FTA (free to air) SADC TV Bouquet, reward model for content producers, revenue generation and sharing mechanism framework and a model for regional content funding and resource facilitation.

Nanuses dismissed claims that some countries were not interested in the bouquet and ascertained that all member states were for the idea.

“It is a collective effort to which South Africa has most supporters for the bouquet,” she added.

She said that a pre-tester to the SADC TV bouquet could be launched as early as August 2018.

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