Comms ministry’s ‘on-demand’ services policy moves to next phase

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Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (Photo source: GCIS)
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (Photo source: GCIS)

The public hearings for the policy framework that will pave the way for the licensing of over-the-top (OTT) and video-on-demand (VOD) services, among others, will get under way in April.

This is according to the communications ministry, which notes the hearings follow the gazetting of the draft White Paper on audio-visual content services for public comment last year.

The hearings are scheduled for April and May, it states.

Last year, the policy proposal received widespread criticism for making way for the expansion of the current TV licence system to require that VOD services adopt the same approach.

For example, it seeks to ensure service providers like MultiChoice, Netflix and Apple TV collect TV licences on behalf of the SABC, so that people who don't have television sets but enjoy VOD entertainment services via smart devices also pay TV licences.

In a statement, the communications and digital technologies department says the draft White Paper, among others, proposes new policy and regulatory changes, as well as recommendations intended to reposition the audio-visual sector for future growth, and to promote investment.

More importantly, the paper emphasises the review of pertinent elements like the licensing of OTT services, competition issues in relation to pay-TV and free-to-air markets, as well as skills development to accelerate digital transformation within the audio-visual sector.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams states there is a growing need to level the playing field between traditional broadcasting and on-demand services providers, including catch-up TV services, VOD services, news portals and video-sharing platforms.

“It has been quite a journey to get this draft White Paper to this stage,” she says. “We are steadily moving towards the implementation stage now. To date, the department has received more than 40 formal submissions, from a wide range of stakeholders and individuals.”

According to Ndabeni-Abrahams, the department is analysing all the submissions with the intention of revising the White Paper to incorporate inputs.

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