Cape Town TV (CTV), the mother city’s own community television channel, has been forced to go off air temporarily. Cash flow problems have inhibited the station’s ability to pay its transmission costs, but the station’s management is confident that the situation will be resolved shortly, when the necessary funds have been raised.
Explains CTV chairman Martin Jansen, “CTV has to pay normal commercial rates for its signal transmission to Sentech, the national signal distributor parastatal that falls under the Department of Communications. There are no reduced rates for community television and radio broadcasters, despite their non-profit status.
“While community radio stations are subsidized by the Department of Communications, the DoC has not implemented this for community television. This means that CTV has to carry the entire cost of transmission, which is an onerous burden for an NGO – and especially for CTV as a new entrant into the media field.
“Whilst community broadcasting is envisaged by government policy and legislation to play a developmental role that provides direct freedom of expression to the public, no provision is made by the state for its sustainability. Community television is left to survive in the competitive commercial market.
“When a community TV channel such as CTV chooses to mainly represent the interests of the poorest and most disadvantaged sections of our community it is even less attractive to commercial advertising and sponsorship. It is imperative therefore that in order for the state to give real meaning to freedom of expression as contained in our country’s constitution, community broadcasting must be subsidized by the state in order for it to survive, remain true to its community purpose and not to fall prey to commercially driven interests.”
CTV has been on air for just over a year now, and has just won a second one-year “temporary” community broadcast license from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). At present ICASA only issues temporary licenses to community television stations, mainly because of issues around frequency allocation, a situation that is exacerbated by the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting.
Says CTV Broadcast Manager Mike Aldridge, “The station needs R150 000 immediately to get back on air and in the longer term, R600 000 is needed to cover the transmission costs. CTV currently broadcasts from just one transmitter, located on Tygerberg mountain. Five transmitter sites are necessary to reach the whole of Cape Town, but there are currently no spare frequencies available on these sites. This, together with the heavy transmission costs, inhibits the channel from reaching everyone in Cape Town.”
Adds CTV Programme Manager Shelley Barry, “CTV has been operating on very minimal resources and it is a tribute to the unceasing efforts of our dedicated staff that we have managed to bring Capetonians programming that is informative, entertaining and an alternative to the mainstream.”
CTV is a registered non-profit organisation that was formed by over 100 NGOs in 2006. The channel broadcasts 24 hours a day and provides Capetonians with a variety of programmes such as documentaries, short films, music, spirituality and sport. The channel prides itself on providing an alternative to mainstream television, with challenging shows on issues such as human rights, animal anti-cruelty, environmental issues and progressive politics.