Procter avoids the new Midi TV spotlight
JONATHAN Procter, the managing director of Midi TV, is extremely reluctant to talk about himself, preferring to let the limelight fall on chairman Nomazizi Mtshotshisa.
Indeed, he gets agitated by persistent questions about his personal background, opting to discuss Midi's triumph as SA's new free-to-air TV station.
The IBA awarded SA's second terrestrial license to Midi in the face of intense competition.
Whether in the public limelight or not, Procter has given himself until October 1 - backed by an estimated R450-million in funds - to get the new channel up and running.
Those who've worked with Procter in this bid attest to his knowledge about the television industry and credit him with bringing a range of black businesses and organisations together under Midi TV. Aligning the world's largest media group, Time Warner, to the group, with a 20% shareholding, was his most significant coup.
Procter is not new to broadcasting, having steered the sometimes volatile ship that was the former homeland broadcaster, Bop Broadcasting Corporation, during the Lucas Mangope days.
It was essentially a Mangope mouthpiece that sought to serve his political interest. On his appointment in 1989, Procter said: "We provide a window through which the world can get to know Bophuthatswana, and we can get to know the world."
Under his leadership, Bop TV pioneered a number of innovative programming: it was the first to introduce CNN live broadcasts and a music channel modelled along the lines of MTV.
In the five years he was at the helm of Bop TV, Procter trebled revenue to R30-million despite severe licensing restrictions which permitted the station to be broadcast in townships only.
He was suspended (along with eight others) in June 1993 amid allegations of unfair treatment to workers, but he says this was because he had started talking to the ANC. Three months later he resigned and founded TV consulting firm, Retcorp International. Very little was heard of him until recently, when the race for the free-to-air TV licence started heating up.
Midi hopes to get its TV station, called e.tv, up and running by October, but this is likely to be delayed by litigation from rival bidders. In the wake of the decision, accusations have been made of political interference and IBA favouritism towards Midi.
In addition, Midi was granted confidentiality agreements on the day of its hearings, leading to a three-hour delay in its presentation to the IBA.
Procter says the reaction was predicatble. He is not surprised at all the "huffing and puffing".
He is adamant the process was transparent and says allegations of political interference are insulting to the applicants, who spent time and money on the bid. "At any rate, the IBA Act precludes this and they (the IBA) would not let themselves be influenced.
"We did not seek or receive any political favours," says Procter.
As for the IBA bending its rules, he says the IBA Act makes provision for "certain information to be treated on a confidentiality basis".
He says the confidentiality concerned the programme supplies by Time Warner.
Procter will be Midi MD for a "short period of time" until a suitable black candidate can be found. For now he is committed to getting e.tv up and running.
He says e.tv will not only source its programming material from Time Warner, but from other suppliers around the world.
He says the relationship with Warner will also enable locally produced programmes to be distributed abroad via Time Warner's distribution network.
"It is a two-way relationship which will allow us to access programmes from them, but also provide the platform for local producers to gain access to offshore TV markets," he says.
So what can SA, accustomed to a somewhat modest TV menu from SABC and M-Net, expect from the new entrant.
Procter says e.tv will offer a wide spectrum of choices, ranging from entertainment to sport and soap operas.