The idea of an Egoli-wood south of Johannesburg is more than just a dream for Johannesburg Expo chairman Andrew Mthembu, writes Edward West in Business Day.

 

He says they have been considering the idea of creating a media city in Nasrec for some time and he recently went to Hollywood to explore the idea. There, many filmmakers were keen to invest in SA, but government concessions and connectivity were an issue.

But Hollywood is not the only inspiration.

The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) to be built at Nasrec may kick-start the development of the entire precinct south of Johannesburg into something akin to Dubai’s Media City, the multinational regional media hub in the United Arab Emirates.

The idea to create something like Dubai’s Media City sounds ambitious, to say the least, but the idea was aired this week by Communications Deputy Minister Roy Padayachie at the City of Johannesburg’s announcement that it had beaten bids by Cape Town and Durban to host the IBC for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Dubai’s Media City was established in 2001 as a tax-free zone and regional hub for media organisations ranging from news agencies, publishing, online media, advertising production and broadcast facilities. By the end of 2006, more than 1200 companies had invested in it and it hosts more than 160 satellite-TV stations.

Johannesburg is already the primary broadcasting hub for international and local television and radio as well as home to almost 60% of all information, communications and technology enterprises in SA.

Providing a tax-free zone in the Nasrec precinct may be asking too much from the central government, but judging from this week’s announcement there is no question that the necessary telecommunications infrastructure will be in place at the IBC, which will become a legacy of the World Cup.

One of keys to the success of the Dubai Media City was its tax-free status. Mthembu believes that if the IBC is going to create jobs, attract investment and develop skills, the government may be able to consider support mechanisms to lure investors.

More than R400m will be pumped into the IBC’s telecommunications facilities , R120m of which will be funded by the city . Most of the city’s funding will go towards rent at Nasrec and it will also provide essential services such as uninterrupted electricity supplies, water, security and transport.

Sibongile Mazibuko, responsible for organising the city’s 2010 programme, said Johannesburg had partnered with the national transport, communications, public works and sport departments, as well as the private sector, to invest in the IBC.

It will become the nerve centre for all TV operations during the World Cup.

Nasrec, one of the city’s largest exhibition centres, will see thousands of broadcasters based there for six weeks during June and July 2010. In the 2006 World Cup in Germany , about 13400 television commentators, presenters, camera crews and technical staff made use of the IBC in that country.

Johannesburg executive mayor Amos Mosondo says the total spend projected to the city due to the hosting of the IBC is R319,9m, based on the fact that existing business tourists spend on average R2002 a day in SA.

According to Padayachie, the IBC will boast the most up-to- date digital broadcast telecommunications systems available. Included will be a fibreoptic cable network and satellite teleport infrastructure that will support 40GB-a-second transmission capacity, which will enable broadcasters to transmit in high definition.

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