DStv’s monopoly on sports comes under fire

On Tuesday, the Congress of South African Trade Unions announced that it plans to picket Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between South Africa and New Zealand in Cape Town.

The trade federation claimed that the primary reason for their protest was DStv’s monopoly over national rugby broadcasting rights in the country, and the lack of freely accessible games broadcast by the SABC.

As it stands, only those with DStv subscriptions and access to SuperSport are able to watch Springbok matches live.

The federation also called for the firing of SuperSport pundits, Naas Botha and Nick Mallett.

“National sports that must inspire the whole nation must be shown live on SABC, as it is a national sport of all the people,” said Cosatu.

“This kind of discrimination will never be allowed in a national soccer match, as the government would step in to ensure it is available live for all citizens.

“This sport has been denied the majority of children in schools because of (the South African Rugby Union) SARU’s bad development programmes and the ministry allows them to get away with it.

“The commentators like Naas Botha and Nick Mallett are outdated and should be replaced. Nick Mallett also has a habit of promoting white players and talking black players down, because he suits the Stellenbosch mafia’s agenda. Mallett should be removed for this racism and clear unbiased reporting of the game.”

Cricket South Africa

The issue of broadcasting rights was also a serious point of contention in the cricketing world this past week, following reports that Cricket South Africa (CSA) head, Haroon Lorgat, had been sacked over repeated failings to negotiate a broadcasting contract ahead of the upcoming Global T20 League.

According to TimesLive, the rights negotiations between the two parties had became so strained that SuperSport representatives walked out of a meeting.

The dispute arose around whether SuperSport was entitled to the Global T20 League broadcasting rights under its current agreement, which it claimed was an “all-rights” deal.

With Lorgat now gone, on Wednesday the Mercury reported that at least some portion of the Global T20 League will be shown on free-to-air television.

Cricket SA’s acting chief executive, Thabang Moroe, said the details of what would be shown on free-to-air television channels, were still being finalised.

“I can’t say yet whether it will be just highlights or if there’ll be a couple of live matches, we are still discussing that,” he said.

“We haven’t even needed to make SuperSport aware of the importance of the tournament being on free-to-air television, they understood that already.”

The exact size of the financial package is also still being discussed.

“It’s been very challenging, we basically had to start negotiations (regarding the broadcast deal for the GLT20) afresh,” Moroe said.

Forced changes 

While DStv is unlikely to feel the effects of Cosatu protests and the loss of some cricket matches to the SABC, it has also been placed squarely in the firing line of government and regulators.

In August, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) announced that it would be starting an inquiry into subscription-based television broadcasting services.

The objective of the inquiry is ultimately to determine whether there are competition issues in the sector and whether Icasa needs to step in and impose new pro-competition conditions.

Some of the issues that Icasa plans to look at include:

  • Shortening exclusive contracts – meaning sports can no longer be tied down to SuperSport through contactual obligations for long periods of time.
  • “Unbundling” sports rights so that they are accessible to more than one buyer.
  • Similar to the unbundling sports rights, Icasa proposes that a rights owner split their content rights and sell them to more than one broadcaster.
  • Similar to the case of Sky in the UK, Icasa proposes introducing a wholesale-must-offer on sports channels, which requires an operator to sell sporting content to other distributors at regulated prices.

Read: 6 ways government wants to end DStv’s monopoly in South Africa

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DStv’s monopoly on sports comes under fire