The feasibility of regional television (RTV) in South Africa : a study of the official process towards the issuing of licenses for RTV and subsequent developments

Robinson, F. J. (2007-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This is a qualitative study on the question whether regional television can be feasible in South Africa with particular reference to the official process to introduce regional television (RTV), the various reports and opinions on the subject, new technological developments and the exploration of alternatives. It is an effort to make a contribution towards the debate about how the public broadcaster can deliver better dedicated services to the diverse language groups of the country wherever they live, while also keeping pace with the challenges of an ever changing global digital world. The study indicated that various public broadcasters internationally struggled to find a financially viable model for regional television to serve diverse communities. The general option was the use of “windows” – specific limited time allocated on national networks for regional break-aways. Yet, increasingly technology provided answers but still at a relative expensive fee for the average citizen. In South Africa the windows model was implemented for a limited period between 1996 and 2003. It was discontinued because of lack of financial support from the state. The researcher indicates how the process to implement regional television already started with transformation envisaged in the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 1993 through to the Broadcast Amendment Act of 2003 instructing the SABC to apply within nine months to the Independent Broadcasting Authority of South Africa (ICASA) for regional licenses that “should reflect the diversity of all sections of the population and represent the plurality of views and opinions of the audience” (ICASA, 2003a:11). ICASA published its Discussion Paper on Regional Television in September 2003 inviting comments while emphasizing the importance of serving the various language groups and providing local content. It recognised the problems concerning funding. Its Position Paper was released in November 2003. ICASA clearly took the view that the introduction of regional services in the various (especially marginalised) languages were imperative and that it had to be offered to the exclusion of English. The state had to fund the services while advertising would not be permitted. The study was approached within the framework of normative mass media theories, and in particular the developmental theory. Through content analysis the ICASA documents and the SABC’s application for RTV in December 2003 was assessed and the stark points of difference indicated, such as the use of English, local content (especially drama) and advertising income. By using the methodology of in-depth interviews and a social survey based on a structured questionnaire more information and perspective was gained. In its application for regional television the SABC suggested two channels for 10 indigenous languages in the nine provinces delivered through the outdated but cheaper analogue technology. Throughout 2004 ICASA and the SABC communicated in letters and at hearings to resolve differences without much success. The SABC’s main concerns remained funding and the lack of capacity and skills to offer the services required. ICASA decided in June 2005 to grant the SABC two regional licenses without issuing it until the funding issue could be resolved with the state. It relented to allow some advertising but remained opposed to the use of English. Towards the end of the study the researcher gives an overview of the fast developing international trends in digital broadcasting. Various options to serve regional communities are offered. News reports on international trends and the opinions of experts are then related to the situation in South Africa. One conclusion is that the state and the country would have to weigh up the cost of subsidising regional television to other pressing social needs of citizens. It appeared that the cost would be too high in the short term. Preparations for the staging of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa might lay the foundation for more sophisticated and affordable services later.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie is ʼn kwalitatiewe studie van die proses om streekstelevisie in Suid-Afrika in te stel, ʼn bespreking van die verskillende verslae en menings oor die onderwerp, nuwe tegnologiese ontwikkelings en die oorweging van alternatiewe. Dit is ʼn poging om ʼn bydrae te maak tot die debat oor hoe die openbare uitsaaier beter en meer toegewyde dienste kan lewer aan die verskillende taalgroepe in die land, waar hulle woon. Terselfdertyd moet ook tred gehou word met die uitdagings van ʼn steeds veranderende internasionale digitale wêreld. Die studie dui aan dat openbare uitsaaiers wêreldwyd sukkel om ʼn lewensvatbare finansiële model vir die lewering van streekstelevisie aan verskillende gemeenskappe te vind. Die algemene keuse was die gebruik van “vensters” – dit is die toekenning van beperkte spesifieke tydsgleuwe op nasionale netwerke vir streekuitsendings. Tog begin tegnologie al hoe meer antwoorde verskaf, maar nog steeds teen redelike duur tariewe vir die deursnee-burger. Die venster-model van streekstelevisie is vir ʼn beperkte tyd van 1996 tot 2003 in Suid-Afrika toegepas. Dit is gestaak weens gebrek aan geldelike ondersteuning van die staat. Die navorser dui aan hoe die proses om streekstelevisie in te stel reeds begin het met die transformasie wat in die vooruitsig gestel is in die Wet op die Onafhanklike Uitsaai-Owerheid van 1993. Dit het later gelei tot die Uitsaai-Wysigingswetsonwerp van 2003. Daarin is die SAUK beveel om binne nege maande by die Onafhanklike Kommunikasie-Owerheid van Suid- Afrika (algemeen bekend as ICASA) om lisensies aansoek te doen vir streekstelevisie wat “die diversitieit van alle seksies van die samelewing sal reflekteer en die verskillende sienings en menings van die gehoor verteenwoordig” (ICASA, 2003a:11). ICASA het sy Besprekingsdokument oor Streekstelevisie in September 2003 gepubliseer. Daarin is klem gelê op die belangrikheid van dienslewering aan die verskillende taalgroepe en die lewering van plaaslike inhoud. Die kommentaar van belanghebbendes is gevra. In die dokument het ICASA erkenning gegee aan die struikelblokke rakende befondsing. ICASA se Standpuntdokument is in November 2003 vrygestel. ICASA het onomwonde verklaar dat die lewering van dienste aan die verskillende (maar veral aan die gemarginaliseerde) taalgemeenskappe voorkeur moes geniet en dat Engels uitgesluit moes word. Die staat sou die dienste moes finansier terwyl advertensies nie toegelaat sou word nie. Die ondersoek is benader binne die raamwerk van die normatiewe teorieë van massamedia kommunikasie en veral die ontwikkelingsteorie. Deur inhouds-analise het die navorser ʼn omvattende ontleding gedoen van die ICASA dokumente en van die SAUK se aansoek vir streekstelevisie. Die aansoek is in Desember 2003 by ICASA ingedien. Die skerp verskille met ICASA is uitgewys, naamlik die gebruik van Engels in die dienste, die lewering van plaaslike inhoud (veral drama) en oor advertensie-inkomste. Die navorser het die metode van diepteonderhoude en ʼn openbare menings-ondersoek, gegrond op ʼn gestruktureerde vraelys, gebruik om meer inligting en perspektiewe te bekom. Die SAUK het twee kanale vir streekstelevisie voorgestel vir die tien inheemse tale in die nege provinsies. Dit sou gelewer word met die goedkoper, maar uitgediende analoog-tegnologie. In 2004 het ICASA en die SAUK deurlopend gekommunikeer in briewe en by openbare verhore in ʼn poging om verskille te oorbrug, maar sonder veel sukses. Deurgaans was die SAUK bekommerd oor die kwessie van befondsing en die beskikbaarheid van bronne en vaardighede om sulke dienste aan te bied. ICASA het in Junie 2005 besluit om twee lisensies vir streekstelevisie aan die SAUK toe te ken, maar dit is nie uitgereik nie, hangende duidelikheid oor finansiering van die staat. Die owerheid het skiet gegee oor die geskil rondom advertensies, maar voet by stuk gehou dat Engelse uitsendings nie toegelaat sou word nie. Aan die einde van die studie gee die navorser ʼn oorsig van die vinnig ontwikkelende internasionale digitale tegnologiese tendense in die uitsaaiwese en die moontlikhede wat dit vir streeksgemeenskappe bied. Nuusberigte oor internasionale ontwikkelings en die menings van deskundiges word in verband gebring met streekstelevisie in Suid-Afrika. Een gevolgtrekking is dat die land die koste van subsidies vir streekstelevisiedienste sal moet opweeg teen die dringende maatskaplike behoeftes van burgers. Die het geblyk dat sulke subsidies te duur sou wees in die korter termyn. Voorbereidings vir die aanbied van die Wêreldbeker Sokkertoernooi in 2010 kan die basis skep om later wel meer gesofistikeerde en bekostigbare streeksdienste te lewer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/19648
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