The South African Broadcasting Corporation has the green light to negotiate commercial terms with broadcasters carrying its SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3 channels.
Pay-TV operators have carried the channels for free since 2008 when the Independent Regulatory Authority of South Africa stipulated pay-TV operators – in this case, MultiChoice – ‘must carry’ SABC channels in support of universal access.
But the newly appointed SABC board, back in 2017, called on the Independent Regulatory Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to review the conditions, saying the Electronic Communications Act clearly required subscription broadcasters to carry the public broadcaster’s channels “subject to commercially negotiable terms”.
Now Icasa has gazetted new regulations on the ‘must-carry’ rules, allowing the SABC to negotiate fees for use of its channels.
MultiChoice has remained clear on its stance. It says the SABC earns significant advertising revenue from having its channels on DStv. A spokesperson told TimesLIVE in 2021, when the draft regulations were published, “The SABC is the public broadcaster and its core mandate is to produce public interest content and broadcast it throughout South Africa and service the needs of all South Africans. For this reason, we don’t support the proposal to remove the must-carry rules as they ensure public-service channels are accessible to those citizens who watch television through pay-TV.”
However, the SABC’s Group Executive for Corporate Affairs and Marketing, Gugu Ntuli, disagrees. “Unfortunately, for the last 13 years, the Icasa regulations have conflicted with this provision. It has taken a concerted effort from the SABC board and management and the minister [of communications] to rectify this unfair provision through the regulatory review process.”
Asked if it would pursue payments and the time frames involved, Ntuli told The Media Online “The SABC will be guided by the regulations which provide for the parties to negotiate commercial terms. The regulations further provide times within which the negotiations should be concluded”.
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