The Ethiopian Broadcasting Agency (EBA) signed an agreement with Fana Broadcasting, Walta Information Center and Arki Broadcasting Services for a satellite TV broadcasting licenses. In addition, One Love Broadcasting, Arki Broadcasting Services and Ed Stelar Tradings have each been granted a license to begin operating as new commercial FM radio stations. There are currently eight analogue and nine satellite TV stations within Ethiopia.
The nine available stations that broadcast from Addis Abeba are public owned stations, such as EBC and Oromia TV. Other stations, available on the very popular Nilesat network, include EBS and the controversial Kana, which airs international soap operas with Amharic dubbing.
The three companies will be the first privately owned satellite broadcast companies to transmit from Ethiopia. "Private satellite broadcasting stations used to have to record their programs and send them abroad to be transmitted. These new companies will have a satellite uplink, which means they can host live shows and news programs from here in Ethiopia," EBA Deputy Head, Leoul Gebre, told Fortune.
Upon an open call from the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, 28 interested parties collected application documents but ultimately only five companies brought the complete documents to the authority. Out of the five, only the three had a complete and thorough application and were awarded licenses. According to the Authority the other two companies will also be granted licenses if they present a complete application. The three stations were required to go through a two-fold evaluation before their licenses were granted. "The first round involved screening the proposals to make sure that they were unbiased, and not associated with any religious or political institutions that could mean some kind of biased affiliation," Leoul told Fortune.
The second part of the evaluation included an examination of the proposed program contents of their respective companies. This was to ensure that their programming is varied and inclusive of all sectors of society. The companies were also required to go through technical and financial evaluations of their readiness to begin transmissions broadcast. The capital requirements were assessed with regard to each company's proposed programming. All applicants were required to show, with concrete documentation, that they had funds available to cover the costs of the broadcast. "We didn't set a lower limit, like we did with the radio licenses. Most applicants showed available funds to the tune of 50 million br and more.
"Each company was also required to prove that the funds were theirs and originated from within Ethiopia," said Authority representative Mulugeta Sisay.
These new TV stations will be subject to the national broadcast regulations, as is the norm for all broadcasters who air their programs in Ethiopia. Recently, two foreign based satellite broadcasters, ESAT and OMN were banned, under the state of emergency directives, although according to the Authority, banning of the channels and the award of new licenses is unrelated.
Broadcasting laws in Ethiopia allow for private institutions to be licensed to broadcast, although the preparations and media infrastructures for private broadcasters were only established recently. The new TV stations will be available on the Nilesat network.
This initiative is part of the government's plan to push Ethiopian media towards digital broadcasting. EBA recently signed an agreement with Tana Communication Plc and Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) to locally produce set top boxes and distribute them across the country. The Authority aims to complete the digital media transformation process by 2020. In the meantime, it will accept applications for satellite TV stations as it aims to reflect multiple and varied choices for consumers.
To aid in its goal of digtial media transmission, in 2006, Ethiopia signed the Geneva Agreement, which allows countries to use frequencies that are currently assigned for analogue television transmission for digital services, without having to protect the analogue services of neighbouring countries against interference.
The digitalization process is led by a steering committee made up of representatives from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Communication, Ethiopian Broadcasting Televisions, Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority and the Information Network Security Agency.