Supersport slams SABC soccer bid

A South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) bid to get exclusive club soccer broadcasting rights would be a hurdle to sports development, the national communications regulator heard on Friday.

”It is too obvious [that the SABC is] … snatching a bargain to further debate,” Schalk Burger, representing M-Net and MultiChoice, told an Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) hearing.

”The SABC is on a Christmas exercise,” he added.

Burger was responding to a proposal by the public broadcaster presented to Icasa on Thursday, which he described as a ”startling submission”.

The SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) proposed that derbies become so-called listed events. This means that only free-to-air broadcasters be allowed to bid for the rights to matches between clubs of the same city that draw fierce support.

Icasa was hearing submissions from several television channels to create regulations on soccer broadcasting rights.

Burger said Icasa did not have the authority to force the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to make some of its matches exclusive to free-to-air channels.

”The PSL isn’t in your jurisdiction,” Burger told the Icasa hearing.

The SABC on Thursday argued that it could not afford to pay the same rates for soccer broadcasting rights as private broadcasters, but that it could offer maximum exposure of soccer to the public.

However, Burger said that currently SuperSport and SABC are already sharing the broadcasting rights to six major matches.

If M-Net and MultiChoice were forced to share even more matches with the SABC, it would dramatically reduce the value of the matches.

That would create a drop in revenue for PSL and would ultimately impact on the development of soccer.

”The request by the SABC should not be acceded to,” said Burger. Also, he told Icasa that the SABC ”did not always broadcast sports matches offered to it on a silver platter”.

He cited an MTN domestic championship cricket event on January 16 this year as an example.

”My client offered it to them … they [the SABC] didn’t even have the courtesy to respond.”

Burger, quoting from a Business Day newspaper report, said the SABC last year lost R1,9-million in rights that it bought, but never broadcast.

Also, he said the SABC ”did not bother to bid in 2007” for PSL broadcasting rights.

The PSL and the South African Football Association (Safa) made submissions to Icasa on Thursday, opposing the listing of derby matches.

Safa and the PSL said professional sport was a business and the revenue from the sales of broadcasting rights would be used to develop the sport.

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.

Newcomer Wow Television, a new pay television channel which is yet to go on air, also made a submission on Friday and mainly agreed with M-Net and MultiChoice.

”Icasa should not prevent pay-TV from getting exclusive rights,” said Wow TV representative Luyanda Mangquku.

He added, however, that Wow TV would not oppose sub-licensing by pay TV channels to free-to-air broadcasters.

The hearings ended on Friday and Icasa has given all parties two weeks to submit any additional information after which it would publish draft regulations on sports broadcasting rights. — Sapa

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