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Namibia: Are NBC And SABC Bedfellows?

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and its South African counterpart (SABC) certainly have a lot of things in common. After all, both are public institutions administered along the same guidelines and principles. Just as the South African public broadcaster is battling to recoup its most prized asset, the broadcast rights for the popular Professional Soccer League matches from Pay Channel SuperSport - the Namibian public broadcaster is embroiled in an ugly row with the country's football authorities over the transmission of live matches involving the national football team, the Brave Warriors.

Thousands of football lovers across the length and breadth of the country were denied a golden opportunity to watch - let alone listen to - the airwaves for last weekend's crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier between Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo following an unavoidable spat between the two public institutions (NFA and NBC).

At the centre of the dispute is an apparent clause in the 40-million-dollar, five-year contract between the Consortium of Sponsors and the Namibia Football Association, which prohibits conflicting potential sponsors from entering the fray.

For starters, MTC would not want to see Cell One getting anywhere near a competitive football match on Namibian soil, nor will FNB entertain any thoughts of Standard Bank eyeing a slice from domestic football and neither would NBL be happy with downing a can of Castle beer at any soccer match under the auspices of the NFA.

Trouble started when the NFA Consortium of Sponsors reneged on an earlier undertaking with the Public Broadcaster to foot the bill for the live broadcast of the Namibia/Libya AFCON qualifier earlier this month. Ostensibly, NBC tried by all means to activate the agreement for last weekend's match between Namibia and DRC, but the financially muscled Consortium would have none of it - prompting the public broadcaster to look elsewhere for a broadcast partner.

Since there is no legislation that requires NBC to seek approval from the NFA to approach other potential broadcast sponsors, NBC acted within its right to rope in broadcast partners, albeit in conflict with the event sponsors.

The Consortium of Sponsors shot themselves in the foot because they stood to benefit immensely from the live broadcast of the match between Namibia and DRC without forking out a single penny for the live broadcast. As event sponsors, banners displaying logos of the Consortium were splashed all over the stadium and there was no chance the Television cameras would have missed them, which meant free advertising since more viewers were going to follow the live transmission as opposed to the few thousands in the stands.

New Era Windhoek, 22 June 2007

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