The watchdog said that Kwesé Free TV’s proposed service complied with the relevant South African laws and met a market need. It also judged that the outfit’s business plan and means of financial support were adequate and that the group had the expertise and experience necessary to run a broadcasting business.
Kwesé also secured a related radio frequency spectrum licence giving it 55% of the country’s third digital multiplex.
The granting of the licence opens the way for Kwesé to offer a bouquet of channels offering sport and general entertainment content. The JV has propsed the launch of five channels: Kwesé Free Sports HD, Kwesé Brave Kwesé Focus. Kwesé Vibes and Kwesé Drama.
The award of the licence to Kwesé Free TV comes despite the collapse of Kwesé TV, the pan-African satellite TV service owned by Econet Media, one of the Kwesé Free TV JV partners. The Zimbabwe-based Kwesé TV foled in August, with Econet Media blaming economic conditions in Zimbabwe and the difficulty in securing foreign currency to pay suppliers.
Kwesé Free TV is 20% owned by Econet South Africa, with Royal Bafoteng Metix owning a 45% stake and Mosong Equities holding 35%.
The regulator made the award in the face of opposition from public broadcaster SABC, which complained that the award of additional third multiplex capacity could hamper a seamless digital migration. ICASA said it was still of the view that licensing an additional individual free-to-air commercial broadcaster would stimulate competition and add to the variety of TV services available to the country’s citizens.
ICASA received five applications for the third multiplex frequencies: Kwesé, Laedza TV, Tshwaranang Media, Infinity Media Networks and Free To Air TV.
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