e.tv and SABC are co-operating at a "high level" over the decision by Platco to launch the Openview HD platform in South Africa. Vasili Vass, group head of corporate affairs at e.tv, has denied allegations by DA communications spokesman, Marian Shinn, that the SABC had turned down e.tv's offer to use its satellite broadcast platform for its new channels.
"e.tv and the SABC are co-operating at a high level in this regard and the statement that the SABC has turned down Platco's offer regarding Openview is therefore incorrect. The agreement between SABC and Platco is in regard to the SABC's existing channels - SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 - and any other channels which SABC would wish to put on the Openview Platform," said Vass.
Shinn, remarking on the upcoming SABC News 24-hour news channel, to be aired on the MultiChoice platform, said the SABC needed to clarify its business case. "This is particularly necessitated as free-to-air e.tv offered the public broadcaster the prime first three channels of its soon-to-be launched satellite TV service at discounted rates," she said in a statement.
But Vass said Platco and the SABC have a "framework agreement for the broadcast of the existing SABC channels on the Openview HD Platform, which launches in October. The commercial details of the agreement with Platco - as well as whether the channels will be HD or SD - are confidential."
Platco, a subsidiary of Sabido, which owns e.tv, last week announced its decision to launch Openview HD, a free-to-view direct to home (DTH) satellite offering in October. It will carry licensed free TV channels locally and, ultimately, in the rest of Africa.
Questioning the SABC's 24-hour news channel
Shinn says the new minister of communications, Yunus Carrim, needs to clarify the financing of the SABC's 24-hour news channel. Carrim should explain "whether National Treasury approved the MultiChoice deal in terms of the R1.4 billion loan guarantee financing the corporation's turnaround strategy and whether Nedbank, to whom the loan is being repaid, was consulted; and how these pay-to-view news and entertainment channels serve the SABC's public broadcast mandate", she said.
Shinn said the previous SABC board had rejected "previous attempts by the SABC's executive management to ram through approval of the 24-hour news channel because it was prohibitively expensive and that the structural issues that landed the public broadcaster in a financial crisis have not been satisfactorily corrected".
She questioned whether controversial acting chief operating officer at the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had the approval of Carrim or the previous minister, Dina Pule, to "negotiate and sign a deal of this magnitude and the expected financial benefits that are expected to accrue from it".
She said the previous board wanted "a deal with better terms, which Motsoeneng may now claim he has". But, she said, these terms were probably negotiated before the SABC was offered the first three channel positions on the satellite TV platform that e.tv and Platco plan to launch in October.
Openview HD roadshow on the cards
My Broadband reported last week that Openview HD would offer 15 channels in a mix of standard and high definition without charging a monthly subscription fee. "This is according to documents in MyBroadband's possession and has been confirmed by electronics distributor Ellies," it said.
The tech website reported that one brochure "asks stakeholders to indicate their intention to attend the road show to Ellies. The other brochure lists a phone number for a recent entrant to the satellite TV equipment distribution game, Switch Digital".
The new TV service will use the same satellites as TopTV, Astra 5°E.