Why government wants to make more DStv sports free to watch

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has invited interested parties to comment on the second draft of the Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations which were published last week.

A key component of the new regulations is the proposed list of sports which are required to be made free to watch in the public interest.

These new regulations could therefore lead to more major sports events becoming available at no cost to South Africans through the SABC or other free channels.

The licences for many of the sporting events on this list are held by DStv and SuperSport via MultiChoice, meaning the pay-TV broadcaster would need to make these events available through channels that are not locked behind a subscription service, such as allowing them to be aired on SABC channels.

ICASA cited the inequalities in access to television content in South Africa as a major consideration of the new regulations.

“Research has shown that despite the overall 82% television penetration in South Africa, only 12.6% use subscription-based television services,” ICASA said.

“This therefore means that programmes broadcast on free-to-air platforms are available to a much wider audience than programmes broadcast on other platforms including subscription broadcast services.”

ICASA’s mandate is to regulate in the public interest and as such, it said the draft amendment regulations seek to reiterate and ensure that South Africans have access to a wide range of national sporting events.

“It is in this light that the Authority has, in the amended draft regulations, sought to give effect to certain provisions of the Electronic Communications Act while considering the competing concerns of financial sustainability of broadcasters; and to ensure increased access to national sporting events to most of the South African population”, said ICASA Councillor Palesa Kadi.

“It is important to note that the review of existing regulations is common within the regulatory environment, and this process is no exception. It is therefore not a new regulatory intervention.”

“As developments happen and new information come to the fore, ICASA needs to relook into the relevance of its existing regulations, and where necessary, initiate a process for the review of such regulations,” Kadi said.

List of sports

The draft regulations list the following national sporting events which would be available to be broadcast “live, delayed-live, or delayed” by free-to-air broadcasting licensees.

List of sports events that must be free to watch
Summer Olympic Games Paralympics
Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup
Africa Cup of Nations Rugby World Cup
International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 Cricket World Championships
Netball World Cup Commonwealth Games
International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) World Athletics Championships Super Rugby
All Africa Games Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup
Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League Confederation of African Football (CAF) Confederations Cup
MTN 8 Telkom Knockout
Nedbank Cup Currie Cup
The Association For International Sport for All (TAFISA) World Sport for All Games

DStv, via SuperSport, owns the broadcast licences for the majority of sports in South Africa, and will subsequently be the most affected by these new regulations.

Selected fixtures from many of these events are already available for broadcast through free-to-air broadcasters such as the SABC, however.

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

The new draft regulations are open for comment until 15 December 2020 and are embedded below.

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Why government wants to make more DStv sports free to watch