Icasa hears submissions on TV soccer rights

The SABC can provide maximum exposure of soccer on television, but it cannot match the prices offered by private broadcasters, the Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) heard on Thursday.

Icasa was hearing submissions in Johannesburg regarding soccer broadcasting rights.

The submissions revolved around the two conflicting issues—of the largest possible public exposure for the sport, and the generation of revenue with which to support the sport.

The SABC submitted that its exposure was often more than four times higher than that of private broadcasters.

In trying to find middle ground, the SABC proposed that derbies (matches between clubs of the same city that draw fierce support) be designated as listed events, meaning that only free-to-air broadcasters
could bid for the rights.

This meant that only the SABC and e.tv could bid on such matches.

The SABC also wanted two quarterfinal matches and one semifinal match of domestic leagues to be designated as listed events.

Icasa chairperson Robert Nkuna told the SABC that not only soccer must be given more air time but that other sports also had to benefit from the public broadcaster’s ability to reach large audiences.

The South African Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League submitted that the greater revenue from sales of broadcasting rights had been used and would be used to develop the sport.

It opposed the listing of derby matches because this did not fit the criterion of being in the national interest in order to be designated as a listed event.

Safa contended that it lost money on each listed match broadcast by the SABC because it had to finance the R6,5-million matches and only received R2-million from the SABC.

Safa also pointed out that the SABC failed to screen the number of matches it had agreed to air, thus diminishing its exposure. This claim was contested by the public broadcaster.

Fifa president Joseph Blatter wrote a letter to Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile in April 2007 highligting the need to balance these conflicting issues.

“As far as the sale of the football television rights is concerned the decision that football governing-bodies have to make in that matter always requires an appropriate and very well fine-tuned balance between various objectives.”

In his letter, Blatter named two objectives: “having the largest exposure possible” and marketing the “rights at the correct price since football needs the adequate funds to ...
fully assume social
responsibility in terms of education, social integration, and leisure for kids to play at amateur levels”.

Icasa would examine the submissions and would create regulations that would then be released for public review, Nkuna said.

Submissions by WoW television, Multichoice and M-Net will continue on Friday. - Sapa

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