ICASA reviews local content requirements

01 November 2000

Local content is once again on the broadcast agenda, with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) due to publish a discussion paper on the issue at the end of November. (Check www.iba.mu/ later this month). 

The present local content guidelines for radio and television were set by ICASA`s predecessor, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA). Television was required to have 30 percent local content or more, depending on their licence conditions. Radio stations that played more than 15 percent music on air were required to make at least 20 percent of that South African.

At the time, the IBA said it would revisit the local content issue after three years, with a view to increasing local content in radio to between 40 and 55 percent, and television to 50 percent. Review time is now here, and the ICASA paper will look at what¹s been happening around local content generally and open the debate on increasing quotas.

Any individual, company or organisation can respond to the ideas in the paper, but these submissions need to be made before the end of January. The NAB will make a submission, and in the interests of representing all our members, is commissioning research on the impact of increased local content quotas on members.

The NAB fully supports the principle of local content, which is aimed at developing local culture and supporting the growth of a local television and music industry. However, we are concerned about the manner in which local content requirements will be phased in and do not want to see a blanket quota system that is equally applied to all genres.

A station that plays largely kwaito could easily exceed quotas. But stations playing classical or adult contemporary music find it more difficult. Many programme directors on such stations argue that it is hard to get the kind of quality from local music in these genres that is available internationally. Also, listeners of those stations expect to hear international hits.

We argue that the format of the station must be taken into account when applying local content requirements as is done in other countries like Australia and Canada.

Even in the case of exemptions, we are not arguing that stations should be freed from their obligation towards developing local culture. But, in the case of stations that are struggling to meet their quotas, there should be an attempt to find other ways to meet that obligation. At the moment, for example, no credit is given for the on-air promotion of a local musician or show, no matter how extensive, although that is clearly meeting the goal of strengthening local culture.



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