The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has called on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to review and regulate the current sports broadcasting regulations which are unaffordable and not sustainable.

The public broadcasters was giving testimony during the public hearings on draft sports broadcasting service amendment regulations held in Pretoria on Friday.

It has called on Icasa to compel MultiChoice to  be transparent on how much sporting rights cost.

Giving testimony during the last day of the public hearings, the public broadcaster says the sporting rights should be accessible to free to air television stations, and says MultiChoice has an unfair advantage over most of the sporting rights.

The public broadcaster wants Icasa to regulate the pricing model of the sporting rights because they are simply unaffordable.

The public broadcaster spent over  R3 billion to secure sporting rights over the last 4 years.  But it says it’s failing to keep up with this because the prices are  now inflated and in some instances even doubled.

SABC Head of Regulatory Affairs Philly Moilwa says, ” We are hoping to achieve transparency. The regulator must assist the free to air television stations that acquire the licences on behalf of the public and they must be accessible.”

MultiChoice which owns SuperSport spends R2 billion a year on sports, and says 60% of it’s revenue comes from broadcasting rights.

It says the current regulations are fair and balanced and should not be changed.

Moilwa disputes this, saying:”Our argument is that most of these rights reside with SsuperSport and they charge us high prices and we find it difficult to afford them.”

The public broadcaster currently has no choice but to opt to broadcast delayed cricket marches because it’s expensive to secure outright sporting rights.

80% of  the SABC’s  revenue comes from adverting and it has been forced to cross-subsidise for sporting rights because most of  its  public mandate is not funded.

SABC’s submission

The SABC’s submission is aimed at influencing, promoting, supporting a conducive and enabling regulatory framework for sports rights regulations in the country.

The key issues which are pertinent to the organisation as a public service broadcaster and presented at the hearing include:

  • The unbundling of sports rights;
  • Exclusivity for the category of rights and platform as per the licensed service;
  • Consideration of capacity by the SABC for sports content in a digital multichannel/multiplatform environment;
  • Accessibility of sports rights by Free-To-Air (FTA) broadcasters for the benefit of all South African irrespective of their economic status;
  • A fair and transparent sub-licencing framework;
  • The review of Must Carry regulations;
  • Fair competition in the broadcasting sector and funding for Sports Content.

From a cost perspective, sports rights are one of the biggest cost drivers for the SABC and a core genre in television broadcasting which requires regulatory intervention.

The position of the SABC is that the new sports regulations should assist the South African public, particularly the poor to access prime sport in the country through FTA television broadcasting.

The public broadcaster is also of the view that the regulations should also consider all competition issues raised by the SABC in the inquiry on competition within the subscription television market such as “Must Carry”.

The SABC looks forward to a holistic regulations framework on sports rights from ICASA, once this process is concluded.

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