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White Paper on Audio and Audiovisual Content Services Under the Spotlight

April 6, 2021

Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services

Hearings on the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audiovisual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020 are scheduled for April and May 2021.

In a statement, the telecommunications and postal services department confirmed that 40 submissions on the Draft White Paper have been received and are being analysed “with the intention of revising the White Paper to incorporate inputs”.

The Draft White Paper was published for comment in Government Gazette 43797 on 9 October 2020 with the comment period extended in November 2020.

Speaking in October 2020 on progress made by the department, the communications and digital technologies minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, emphasized that the Draft White Paper seeks to create an enabling environment for the provision of inclusive audio and audiovisual content services to all South Africans in a manner that promotes socio-economic development and investment.

It also “proposes new policy and regulatory changes and recommendations intended to reposition the audio-visual media sectors for future growth and promote investments”.

The Draft White Paper focuses on the evolving audio and audiovisual content services landscape in South Africa; licence framework and thresholds for audio and audiovisual content services; public broadcasting in the new policy framework; content regulation of audio and audiovisual content services; support of domestic audio and audiovisual production and creative industries sector; ownership, plurality, competition and investment and developing human capital, digital skills and digital media literacy.

The proposed policy changes in the Draft White Paper will “align South Africa’s policy, legislative and regulatory framework with the 4IR and promote investment in the audio and audiovisual content industries, repositioning the industry for further growth, and encourage investment, capital, infrastructure and skills development”.

The Draft White Paper also seeks to create a new policy environment in which the sector can grow in a manner that ensures access to broadcasting services by all citizens; creates certainty and stability by improving regulatory capacity; facilitates competition and allows market entry by new entrants and strengthens the public broadcaster.

In the latest statement, the minister pointed out that there is a “growing need to level the playing field between traditional broadcasting, on-demand services providers – these includes catch-up TV service, video on-demand services as well as news portals – and video-sharing platforms. It has been quite a journey to get this Draft White Paper to this stage. We are steadily moving towards the implementation stage now”.

Meanwhile, in Gazette 44371, the Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) published Draft Equipment Authorization Regulations for comment.

The Draft Regulations are designed to, inter alia, streamline the equipment authorization process in accordance with the Electronic Communications Act; protect the integrity of the electronic communications networks; ensure interoperability, interconnectability and harmonization and avoid harmful interference with the electronic communications network by prescribing electronic communications equipment, electronic communications facilities and subscriber equipment conformance requirements.

The Draft Regulations stipulate that it is an “offence to offer for sale or to possess, with the intention to sell, any electronic communications equipment, electronic communications facility or subscriber equipment that is not authorised in terms of these Regulations”.

Comment is invited within 30 working days of the date of publication.

Other notices published by ICASA include:

• Gazette 44368 – notice regarding suspension of the closing date for the submission of applications for an Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (“I-ECNS”) licence and Radio Frequency Spectrum (“RFS”) licence for the Wireless Open Access Network (“WOAN”);
• Gazette 44370 – Municipal Elections Broadcasts and Political Advertisements Amendment Regulations, 2021;
• Gazette 44374 – amendment of Information and Communications Technology (“ICT”) Covid-19 National Disaster Regulations – in effect on 1 April 2021;
• Gazette 44382 – Regulations in Respect of the Limitations of Control and Equity Ownership by Historically Disadvantaged Groups (HDG) and the Application of the ICT Sector Code.