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MBABANE – 60 per cent local!

With the revision of the broadcasting (content) guidelines 2022, all radio and TV networks in the country are now obliged to broadcast 60 per cent local content. This revision decision is in terms of Section 32 of the Eswatini Communications Commission Act, 2013. One of the functions of the commission, in terms of Section 6(c) is to regulate and supervise the provision of radio and television broadcasting services and the content that forms part of those services. The Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM) is the regulatory body responsible for regulating the communications sector in Eswatini, constituting of telecommunication services and networks, broadcasting services, postal services and the use and allocation of radio spectrum. It derives its mandate from the Swaziland Communications Commission Act no. 10 of 2013.


The commission became operational on July 31 2013, effectively taking over all the regulatory powers of the sector from the Eswatini Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (EPTC) and Eswatini Television Authority (Eswatini TV). The aim of a regulator is to ensure that the sector is working properly, and that consumer and other stakeholder interests are protected in a fair and balanced manner. An effective regulator is the vehicle to ensure credible market entry, as well as compliance with and enforcement of existing regulations. To achieve this, governments must create and maintain an environment conducive to good governance and regulatory success. Independence is a critical attribute for a regulator to be effective.
Effectiveness however, has additional dimensions. In a broad sense, an effective regulator is structurally and financially independent, but the real effectiveness of the regulator will depend on how it achieves successful functionality, ideally in an independent and autonomous manner. In addition, an effective regulator should demonstrate other characteristics, including accountability, transparency and predictability.


As it stands, EBIS is up to date with this Act as their top 20 chart show fell short of 60 per cent local content guidelines by the regulator ESCCOM this past week. Radio host Bongani ‘Bobo’ Dlamini explained how they fell short. “In the week ending August 18 of the weekly music chart show on EBIS 2 FM, only about 40 per cent of  the songs were local which is equivalent to nine out of 20 songs. Making the list were artists such as YoungZesh, !Sooks, DJ Cup, Tendaness, Amarri, Manana, Originelle, Popzin and Zwile’’,shared Dlamini. He  went
on to say that they were aware of the guidelines but even prior to the issuance, they have always strived to give preference to local music. “While we are all for local content, for us it’s a delicate balancing act between quality and content, and this is a general concern across platforms and programmes not just about the Top 20,” said Dlamini.

When reached for comment. Qhawe Mamba, mentioned that they were aware of the new revised regulations, they were currently way over the 60 per cent mark. “Since inception Channel Yemaswati has been keen on broadcasting 90 per cent local content. We focus on human interest stories in the country, our niche market consists of people from the kingdom,” said Mamba. Following the issuance of the Broadcasting (Content) Guidelines 2022, by the regulator, local radio stations and programmes have been found to be keen when it comes to meeting most of the guidelines spelt out by the legal instrument.

Section 7 of the guidelines deals with obligations relating to broadcasting services, of which Section 7 (2) specifies the local content quota. Commercial broadcast licenses are required to broadcast a minimum of 30 per cent local content while community broadcasters are expected to ensure that 70 per cent of the content aired is content covering community issues and needs. The guidelines further stipulate that broadcasters shall ensure local content requirements are met as follows; public broadcast licenses shall ensure that 70 per cent of local content aired by the public broadcaster shall be produced and supplied by independent local producers, with commercial broadcasters ensuring at least 40 per cent of their content is local content.
So what does this really mean? It’s worth noting that this applies to both radio and television.

The guidelines define local content as the total of all television or radio programmes, which meet at least five of the following conditions;
* The production is made in either Eswatini’s indigenous or official languages;
* All, or a majority, of the production and post-production is done in Eswatini;
* The content deals with issues that are unique and relevant to Eswatini audiences;
* At least 60 per cent of the actors, leading cast, major supporting cast, major technical crew, and production crew members are emaSwati;
* The location of shooting, in case of audio visual programmes or performance was wholly or partly in eSwatini;
* The authors of the programme are emaSwati (whether or not the program is produced in conjunction with a co-producer, an executive producer or director who is not liSwati; and
* The production company producing the programme should be based in Eswatini employing more than 60 per cent of emaSwati, and be wholly owned by emaSwati, or have at least 50 per cent shareholding.

In neighboring countries like South Africa (SA) some of the broadcasters have kept a 90 per cent local content ratio when it comes to content that they broadcast. For example public broadcaster SABC airs 90 per cent local music across its 18 radio stations; this began back in May 12, 2016. This increase in the numbers set for the network was said to be a action legislated to help local artists to get the recognition and support internally. Questions yet to be answered are, why the regulation has been set to a higher content than before? Are all broadcasters aware of this change? and what measures are they going to take to ensure that the content they broadcast complies with the guidelines in the different categories like; programming, music and news? Also if they think that this will be an advantage or disadvantage to them.

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