More airtime for local languages

2005-06-13 13:04

Johannesburg - Following more than a year of processes to alter the national broadcaster's licencing conditions, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) will be imposing new conditions on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) - which will result in local languages getting more airtime - with effect from April 2006, the regulator said on Monday.

In accepting the new licence from Icasa chairperson Mandla Langa, the SABC's board deputy chair Christine Qunta said that the broadcaster was not against the new conditions and that funding models would be a challenge.

The SABC was unable to quantify financial implications emanating from the new requirements, acting CE Solly Mokoetle said.

Langa said the fact that SABC1 and SABC2 - part of the public service division - would be broadcasting 32% in languages other than English by the time their current licences expired "leaves much to be desired".

The public arm consists of two TV channels and 15 radio stations broadcasting in more than 11 languages while the commercial service division comprises SABC3 and radio stations 5FM, Good Hope FM and Metro FM.

Langa said Icasa acknowledged that the broadcaster operated under financial constraints and as such, the implementation of more ambitious language quotas would be very expensive.

In terms of the new conditions, public TV channels will broadcast 66% of prime time programming in other local languages - a shift from the current scenario whereby more than 60% of SABC1 and SABC2 prime time content is in English.

Icasa has introduced a clause by which it hopes to prevent the SABC from using any revenue generated by the public arm - that includes Lesedi, Ligwalagwala, Lotus, SAfm and Ukhozi radio stations - to subsidise any of its commercial broadcasting services.

However, the Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri would decide to what extent the commercial service had to subsidise the public service.

On radio stations - Radio 2000, RSG and one-year-old XKFM - Icasa wanted the facility service, Radio 2000 to start using other local languages but it imposed no drama programming conditions on Khoisan languages XKFM as the expiry of its licence is imminent.

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Afrikaans language service RSG is now required to air children's programmes, a condition Qunta said would pose a challenge.