The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) will hold hearings with stakeholders in January 2021 to further discuss its inquiry into subscription TV services in South Africa.
A number of international bodies are set to make presentations, including World Rugby, the Spanish soccer league (La Liga), South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) and media group Multichoice.
While Icasa’s inquiry covers a number of subscription TV issues, the bulk of the discussion will likely focus on DStv’s broadcasting rights – particularly around sports.
In 2019 Icasa published the draft findings of its inquiry into South Africa’s subscription television broadcasting services. Despite the popularity of new entrants such as Netflix, Icasa found that DStv was still the dominant player in the market.
As a result of this dominance, Icasa said it is proposing various license conditions to address market failure. These would include:
- Reducing contract duration – this would include reducing long-term contracts and prohibit automatic contract renewal;
- Rights splitting – Icasa said rights-owners must split their content rights and sell them to more than one broadcaster. This would stop broadcasters like DStv having éxclusive’rights to certain programmes;
- Unbundling – Icasa said sports rights should be unbundled;
- Limiting access to the number of Hollywood movie studios – Icasa said that it will limit the number of Hollywood studios that a broadcaster may enter into exclusive agreements with for the purposes of distributing.
While it is not clear if Icasa will pursue all of these issues, it has made it clear that it plans to target DStv’s perceived monopoly on sports.
In November, Icasa published its Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations for public comment, aiming to make sports more accessible to the wider public.
The draft bill aims to regulate the broadcasting of national sporting events, as identified in the ‘public interest’, within South Africa.
Icasa said the following national sporting events may be broadcast live, delayed-live or delayed by free-to-air broadcasting service licensees:
- Summer Olympic Games;
- Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup;
- Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup
- Africa Cup of Nations
- Rugby World Cup;
- International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup;
- International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 Cricket World Championships;
- Netball World Cup;
- Commonwealth Games;
- International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) World Athletics Championships;
- Super Rugby;
- All Africa Games;
- Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup;
- Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League;
- Confederation of African Football (CAF) Confederations Cup;
- MTN 8;
- Telkom Knockout;
- Nedbank Cup;
- Currie Cup;
- The Association For International Sport for All (TAFISA) World Sport for All Games.
Icasa said that it has observed a trend whereby national sporting events are mostly broadcast live on subscription television, resulting in the majority of South Africans being unable to access such events on a live basis due to affordability of such service.
It highlighted the 2019 Rugby World Cup whereby the rights were bought by a subscription broadcasting licensee leaving the majority of South Africans excluded from accessing the National team’s participation in the World Cup, apart from the final match which was broadcast after public outcry.
“Nevertheless, the authority is keenly aware that the sports industry relies on the sale of broadcasting rights as the biggest source of their revenue. Sporting bodies that submitted representations contended that the best commercial offers for their rights were often made by subscription broadcasters.
“This situation contributes to the majority of South Africans being denied access to sports of national interest,” it said.
In light of the above considerations, Icasa said it has in the amended draft regulations sought to give effect to the provisions of section 60 of the ECA whilst considering the competing concerns of the financial sustainability of broadcasters and ensuring increased access to national sporting events is provided to most of the South African population.