The telecoms regulator seems to be losing the plot as it plans to issue
new pay television licences despite signs that the first round is
failing, writes Thabiso Mochiko in Business Report.

In 2007 the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) issued four new pay TV licences to Walking on Water, On Digital Media, Telkom Media and e.sat, to compete with MultiChoice. e.sat abandoned its licence to provide content to MultiChoice. The other three say they plan to launch services, but there is no indication when they will do so.

Icasa chairman Paris Mashile said yesterday that the regulator would hold a second round of licensing to increase competition in the pay TV market. His announcement, at a breakfast briefing hosted by Neotel and the Mail & Guardian, came despite Icasa's recent statement that it would look at issuing satellite free-to-air licences as an alternative to pay TV.

David Moore, a media analyst at Africa Analysis, said: "I think Icasa is in a state of turmoil, and needs to pause and re-examine where its focus should be and how best to fulfil its mandate.

"It needs to determine a single path to follow, and stick to it," he said. Its handling of Vodacom's listing was "a clear indicator that Icasa staff are not all reading from the same page. This situation just adds to that."

Moore said Icasa should leave the door permanently open to issuing more pay TV licences and let anyone apply.

Click here to read the full report, posted on  Business Report's website.