Convergence of information, communication and technology : a case study of Sentech.
The global media landscape has undergone fundamental changes. South Africa is one of the countries that has been part of the global media revolution, and it is therefore not surprising that the broadcasting and the telecommunications industry in South Africa finds itself in the midst of critical and rapid changes. From a technological and legislative viewpoint, the industry is grappling with the meaning and implications of the convergence of broadcasting (Sentech Annual Report, 2002). Sentech Limited is used as a case study for this dissertation. The present study examines the nature of Sentech's transformation as a service arm within the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to a fully-fledged, profit driven, state-owned enterprise. The advent of technological convergence and the introduction of new digital technologies afford Sentech exciting new opportunities to expand in the communications arena. The first chapter entails the methods of data collection used, as well as the analysis of data collected from the interviews and surveys. It is worth reviewing the challenges that Sentech faces as it operates independently of SABC, as well as how its transition into a digital oriented enterprise has developed and necessitated the possible access to information. Chapter two discusses and outlines Sentech's history and its structure. The two issues raised guide the reader towards a better understanding of the 'old Sentech', and its transformation to a 'renewed entity'. The history surveys Sentech's establishment from the initial stages when it was a mere division of SABC, focused on technological aspects of analogue terrestrial signal distribution. The new technological revolution introduced and transformed Sentech into a digital transmitter. The 'new Sentech's outfitted with new technological platforms for distribution and transmission. For instance, IP Wireless mobile broadband and other new technological structures contributed to reshaping Sentech into a digitally oriented transmitter. The design of the company tracks different developments in which Sentech has engaged over the past ten years, and are dealt with the following sections. The third chapter deals with Sentech's transformation as an outcome of the liberalization wherein the effects of this process need to be looked at including the role of the government, market structure, issues of competition with Orbicom and Telkom, the new competitive strategies and ICASA's role as a regulator. The fourth chapter covers the concepts and theories that may help inform the discussion in the dissertation. Three theories will be used in the discussion to help to analyze and evaluate the data collected. The theories are very important as they motivate this study. They are concerned with the concept of political economy. Political economy signifies "the production, distribution, and consumption of the more general interest in the process of control and survival in social life" (Mosco, 1996: 17). These will exemplify the opportunities that Sentech faced as an independent commercial enterprise. Furthermore, the section explains technological components. Sentech is a signal distributor, which underwent transformation. Concepts such as 'convergence' produce a vivid explanation of how Sentech was allowed to undertake an aggressive business transformation, from being traditional signal distribution to international telephony and multimedia service. Chapter five entails the performance of Sentech. This part discusses the revenue, public interest on matters relating to access and some of the key challenges. There is also a discussion on globalization, digitization and convergence which Sentech has engaged in. The last chapter will be concerned with a conclusion and will recommend a way forward.