Government wants to make these pay-TV sports free to watch in South Africa

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has provided further details around the major sporting events which could be made be free-to-air as part of a review of South Africa’s sports broadcasting regulations.

In a presentation to parliament on Friday (4 September), Icasa said that the purpose of the review is to identify and list national sporting events, and regulate the broadcasting thereof, in South Africa.

The regulator said that the regulations list sporting events which:

  • Have been identified as national sporting events as well as minority and developmental sports;
  • Cannot be acquired exclusively for broadcasting by subscription television licensees;
  • Must be broadcast live, delayed live, or delayed by free-to-air television broadcasting licensees.

Icasa said that a number of criteria are used to determine whether a national sporting events are of public interest.

This includes whether the event includes a national team or a national representative, whether the game being played is a semi-final or final of a knockout competition and whether it is the opening game of a confederation event.

The proposed list of events which Icasa and the Department of Communications is looking to include is as follows:

  • Summer Olympic Games;
  • Paralympics;
  • FIFA World Cup;
  • African Cup of Nations;
  • Rugby World Cup;
  • ICC Cricket World Cup;
  • ICC T20 Cricket World Championships;
  • International Boxing Federations;
  • Netball World Cup;
  • Commonwealth Games;
  • IAAF World Athletic Championships;
  • Super 15 Rugby;
  • All Africa Games;
  • Cosafa Cup
  • CAF Champions League
  • CAF Confederations Cup
  • MTN 8
  • Telkom Knockout;
  • Nedbank Cup;
  • Currie Cup;
  • TAFISA World Sport for All Games.

Some of these events are already available for broadcast through free-to-air broadcasters such as the SABC. In addition, pay broadcasters will not lose out on the right to broadcast these events – only possible exclusivity.

Draft plans 

In December 2018, Icasa published the Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations which aims to formalise its plans to cut down on the monopoly around sport.

If a free-to-air licensee, like the SABC or eTV, cannot acquire the sporting rights for these events, subscription service broadcasters like MultiChoice can bid for the rights on a non-exclusive basis.

Numerous other sporting events, like Super Rugby, Currie Cup, Premier League Soccer, and the COSAFA Cup, are available to subscription broadcasters on a non-exclusive basis.

The regulations further require free-to-air and subscription services to broadcast at least two minority sporting codes like golf, tennis, martial arts, basketball, squash, and motorsport.

A number of South African bodies have united in a bid to oppose new broadcasting regulations, as they stand to lose significant funding due to the new model.

DStv is the largest funder of a number of sporting codes in the country, with many South African sporting groups reliant on the broadcaster for their day to day operations.

Who is paying? 

Questions have also been raised as to who will be paying to access these sports rights.

In a parliamentary meeting in March, DA MP Phumzile van Damme said that the SABC and government simply did not have the funds to buy the international broadcasting rights.

“I understand the reason behind the regulation. You want the whole of South Africa to watch sport on the SABC – which is a good thing,” she said.

“But this won’t happen. It is just populist, and if this is the idea that you are taking out to the public then it’s a lie. There’s no way this is going to happen.”

Van Damme said it was not possible for the SABC to send its own cameras and crew to these international events as they were highly regulated and the broadcast rights are sold as part of international bidding.

She added that these bodies are unlikely to give the SABC preferential rates on broadcasting rights, while Icasa could not stop companies such as SuperSport from bidding for these rights.

Instead Van Damme said government should find a ‘middle-ground’ as with the Rugby World Cup final which was broadcast on the SABC.

Read: South Africans have stopped paying their TV licences – this is what the SABC is doing about it

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Government wants to make these pay-TV sports free to watch in South Africa