Icasa holds hearings for new free-to-air TV licence

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is set to start public hearings on the process of awarding a commercial free-to-air television licence on Thursday.

The regulator said it would be looking into applications from Kwese Free TV, Tshwaranang Media, Infinity Media Networks and Free To Air TV. The process follows an unsuccessful round in 2016, where Icasa rejected all five applications due to non-compliance with key requirements.

Infinity Media, which is wholly owned by Afrotone Media, was part of the previous bid. The company, once linked to the Gupta family, is now owned by Mzwanele Manyi, who is a 90% shareholder.

The rest of the ownership is held by Super Projects Trading, which is equally controlled by Garry Naidoo, a former senior manager at ANN7, and his partner Abhinav Sahay.

Factors relating to foreign ownership, ownership by historically-disadvantaged persons, finances and cross media ownership that exceeded the regulatory provisions were among the reasons cited by Icasa as leading to the rejection of the 2016 applicants.

Another notable applicant is Kwese Free TV, which is behind Kwese Free Sports, a Pan-African free-to-air channel which has a presence in more than 12 countries in the continent, and now hopes to make an entry into the local market. 

The public hearings will be held from between November 22 and 23, and will also grant the successful applicant a radio frequency spectrum licence. Icasa plans to complete the licensing process by the end of March 2019.