South Africa's SABC says MultiChoice profiting unfairly from carriage obligations

18 May 2018

Regulation & Policy

South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says must-carry regulations, which require DStv parent MultiChoice and other satellite pay-television providers to carry the SABC’s three free-to-air channels, are unfair and commercial broadcasters are exploiting the situation to their advantage and to the financial detriment of the public broadcaster, reports TechCentral.

In its submission the SABC made at public hearings at Icasa’s offices on 8 May, the broadcaster said its must-carry channels have commercially benefited MultiChoice Africa and other subscription broadcasters at the expense of the public broadcaster. The industry regulator is conducting an inquiry into subscription TV broadcasting services in South Africa in an effort to determine what can be done to make the market more competitive.

The cash-strapped broadcaster, which has been lobbying Icasa for some time to amend the must-carry rules, wants DStv, StarSat and others to pay to carry SABC 1, 2 and 3 on their platforms. They currently don’t have to pay for the channels as the regulations state they must be offered at no cost. SABC team led by chief operating officer Chris Maroleng argued that the must-carry regulations, though originally meant to assist the public broadcaster, in fact threaten its sustainability.

The regulations were introduced in 2008. MultiChoice, it said, is getting a free ride, and suggested that many of the most popular programmes viewed on DStv are in fact produced by the SABC. It added that changes to the regulations are necessary, at the very least, because the Electronic Communications Act requires Icasa to “protect the integrity and viability of public broadcasting services”.

In its submission, the SABC said it often bids against MultiChoice for premium content. However, whether the SABC wins the tender or not “often becomes irrelevant” because MultiChoice — and other pay-TV providers — “still gain free access to that content through the must-carry obligations”.This gives them an “unwarranted competitive edge and leverage at the expense of the public broadcaster and public funding”.

Source: Telecompaper