The new plan to make major DStv sports free to watch

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has proposed new rules which would force DStv to make certain sports free-to-air to address the public interest.

This is already in place to an extent, and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa recently began a review of the country’s broadcasting regulations which would redefine the criteria for this requirement.

In a whitepaper published last week, the department proposed that the existing legislation that defines events as being in the “public interest” be amended to include several criteria.

Note that if a sport on DStv was deemed to be in the public interest, the broadcaster would be required to make the sport available through free-to-air channels, effectively allowing all South Africans to watch this sport despite not having a DStv subscription.

According to the proposal, an event would have to meet all of the criteria below to qualify as being in the public interest:

  • The event must involve the South African senior national team (i.e. the most senior official South African team) or an individual representing the Republic.
  • The event must be in a major sport, taking into consideration the number of South Africans who play it and/or watch it at the venue or on television, or listen to radio coverage.
  • The event must be of major importance to South African society, and not just to those who ordinarily follow the sport.
  • The event is appropriate to list, given its structure and duration.
  • The event takes place in South Africa. The only events which take place outside South Africa which should be eligible for listing are international confederation sporting events such as a World Cup or Olympic event in which a South African team nor individual is representing the Republic.

“It should remain the policy intention to continue to ensure that key national sports events are aired free-to-air, whilst acknowledging that certain exclusive sports events are critical to the viability of the subscription model,” the whitepaper states.

How DStv will be affected

ICASA’s presentation to parliament last month revealed that it was interested in assessing the broadcasting of national sporting events to promote “wider audience reach whilst striking a balance between audience interests and revenue generation”.

ICASA said it has engaged with the SABC, MultiChoice, eTV, SAFA, PSL, Cricket SA, Boxing SA, Athletics South Africa, SARU, Netball, and SASCOC over the proposed new list of “public interest” sports.

As MultiChoice has exclusive broadcasting rights to the majority of popular sports in the country via its SuperSport channel, these regulations are most likely to affect its ability to exclusively broadcast certain sports.

The proposed list of events ICASA previously said it was looking to include under this criteria is as follows:

Proposed list of sports
Summer Olympic Games Paralympics
FIFA World Cup African Cup of Nations
Rugby World Cup ICC Cricket World Cup
ICC T20 Cricket World Championships International Boxing Federations
Netball World Cup Commonwealth Games
IAAF World Atheltic Championships Super 15 Rugby
All Africa Games Cosafa Cup
CAF Champions League CAF Confederations Cup
MTN 8 Telkom Knockout
Nedbank Cup Currie Cup
TAFISA World Sport for All Games

MultiChoice prefers no changes to the regulations

It is important to note that selected fixtures from many of these events are already available for broadcast through free-to-air broadcasters such as the SABC.

MultiChoice and other pay-TV broadcasters will also not lose the right to broadcast events listed above if the reviewed list is approved.

It is unclear how this list may be changed as a result of the proposed amendments to the criteria describing “public interest” sports.

MultiChoice has said it would prefer for the regulations to remain the same.

In response to questions from MyBroadband, MultiChoice said it is engaged extensively in the review process.

It added that the current rules, which include those around making “public interest” events available to platforms like the SABC, are adequate.

“MultiChoice is awaiting ICASA’s decision on proposed amendments to the Sports Broadcasting Regulations, as are all stakeholders that engaged extensively in this process,” MultiChoice said.

“It remains our view that the current regulations strike a balanced approach and should not be amended.”

Now read: How DStv can help the SABC fix its TV licence problem

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The new plan to make major DStv sports free to watch