TV broadcasting is in for a major shake-up as major ITC
companies vie for a piece of subscription television, which is
monopolised by MultiChoice, writes Abdul Vilazi in Business Day..

But none of the applicants wants to comment about the details of their applications.

The SABC has for the first time challenged MultiChoice, bringing with it heavyweight Sentech, which will provide broadcasting signal distribution services.

Independent ITC and competition regulatory adviser Siyabonga Mahlangu says new developments in the subscription broadcasting industry will be good for the industry in the long run.

"Having more than one service provider will increase competition, improve quality of content and, hopefully, prices will drop, which will be great for consumers," says Mahlangu.

However, he says, the number of foreign owners among many applicants is worrying. "The smaller consortiums that have applied for licences are dominated by foreign players, which highlights dependence on foreigners for content and funding."

Icasa spokesman Sekgoela Sekgoela says the regulator is still going through the applications. "We will then call for interested parties to make submissions and then hold public hearings."

Mahlangu says there is no reason why the SABC should not get the licence if its business plan meets regulatory criteria.

A surprise player is Telkom, which has also applied for a subscription broadcasting licence. In its application, the fixed-line telephone operator says that with the rapid growth in middle-income households and only 9% pay television penetration, there is significant unfulfilled demand for subscription broadcasting services.

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