ICASA Publishes Draft Diversity Digital TV Regulations

Independent Communications Authority of South Africa

The independent communications authority of South Africa (ICASA) has published the Electronic Communications Act (2005): draft promotion of diversity and competition on digital terrestrial television regulations for public comment.

The increased capacity and spectrum availability of digital terrestrial television (DTT) provides an opportunity for the licensing of new pay television service providers in the short term, and new free to air services in the medium to long term.

Competition is seen as a way to achieve a range of national policy imperatives including; consumer choice, economic empowerment and the promotion of foreign and domestic investments.

The purpose of these regulations is to:
•    Prescribe the conditions for the assignment of channel capacity in multiplex 3 (frequencies designated as MDTT2) for the purpose of promoting diversity and competition on the DTT platform.
•    Prescribe the procedures for the authorisation of digital television channels on multiplex 3 which will be used for the provision of subscription, commercial free-to-air and community digital terrestrial television services.

The regulations contain, but are not limited to the following:
•    Allocation procedures.
•    Restrictions and usage rules including; that if capacity in multiplex 3 is used by a terrestrial television broadcasting service licensee and is not fully utilised for content provision within 36 months after the commencement of the licensee's DTT services the unutilised capacity will be forfeited.
•    Outline of penalties, including; R500 000 for each day that the terrestrial television broadcasting service licensee is in contravention of regulations.
•    That no new free-to-air commercial television broadcasting service licensee may commence service on multiplex 3 before 18 June 2015.
•    That up to 40% of the available capacity on multiplex 3 will be made available to a new free-to-air commercial television service licensee.
•    That up to 20% of the available capacity on multiplex 3 shall be made available to new community television broadcasting service licensees.
•    The roll-out targets; including that an electronic communications network services licensee must submit quarterly reports to ICASA on quality of service, progress in meeting required technical standards and the measures undertaken to manage and prevent frequency interference.

Written submissions on the draft regulations should be submitted within 45 days of the date of publication of this notice on 14 December 2012 in Government Gazette 35998.

The draft regulations follow the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy Amendment published in February 2012 which indicated that the government was committed to increasing diversity of ownership and content of the broadcasting sector and facilitating the development of a dynamic, competitive environment.

These regulations which amend the Mobile Television Regulations, published in Government Gazette 33125 in April 2010, are available from ICASA’s website at http://www.icasa.org.za.

Sabinet Cape Town Office