The SABC has lashed out at communications regulator Icasa for failing to ensure that it can broadcast the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League Final between Kaizer Chiefs and Egypt’s Al Ahly.
On Friday, the public broadcaster said it was disappointed to learn that SuperSport had secured the exclusive broadcasting rights to broadcast the match.
“Despite the SABC meeting CAF’s asking price for the free-to-air rights, the offer was rejected on the basis that CAF has signed an exclusive deal with SuperSport that covers all rights, including the free-to-air rights, for this match,” the SABC stated.
“The agreement between CAF and SuperSport is wrong as it places this showpiece of African club football behind a pay-wall, effectively denying millions of South African football fans the opportunity to watch the game.”
The SABC said broadcasting the game was clearly part of its public mandate, and it was not in the public interest for CAF and SuperSport to contractually exclude millions of non-pay-TV subscribers from watching it.
“Furthermore, it is disreputable for a pay-TV broadcaster to acquire free-to-air rights with the intention of blocking free-to-air broadcasters from using those rights.”
“At a time when economic exclusion is the biggest issue facing South Africa, not only does this deal between CAF and Supersport perpetuate the divide in our society but it shows scant regard for the issues facing our people.”
The broadcaster went on to blame the failure of Icasa’s sports rights regulations, which were published at the end of March 2021, to deal with the situation.
Icasa hit back at the SABC, saying that the broadcasters claims were not “consistent with the spirit and intention of the regulations”.
The authority’s chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng said this was a clear case of a commercial agreement between parties which is allowed in law, and the SABC cannot attribute its commercial shortcomings to the regulator.
“Icasa regulations are a by-product of public consultation and we have done our part in this regard as the SABC participated fully in the development and the recent review of the Sports Broadcasting Regulations,” Modimoeng said.
“Their accusation of Icasa in this matter is clearly inappropriate.”
Icasa said that deals for exclusive rights are allowed, except in instances where they may prevent or hinder the free-to-air broadcasting of national sporting events, as identified in the public interest, from time to time, by the authority.
“The regulations define ‘national sporting event’ as a sporting event that is deemed to be of national interest and includes the South African Senior National Team or National Sporting Representative,” Icasa explained.
CAF matches are only listed as National Sporting Events if a national team is concerned.
“For instance, if the deal involved Bafana Bafana, this matter would have been completely different, and Icasa would urgently intervene in that regard,” the regulator said.
“Even though Kaizer Chiefs has a huge fan base in South Africa, it is not considered a Senior National Team,” the regulator added.
Modimoeng said that Icasa’s door was always open to engagement with the SABC.
“We do not believe it is productive nor constructive to be receiving such media attributions from the public broadcaster without formal engagement.”
Update — SABC will broadcast match
Following engagements between communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the SABC, and MultiChoice, the match will now also be broadcast live by the public broadcaster on its television and radio platforms.
The minister said an amicable resolution on the acquisition of rights was reached, in the interests of the broad African public.
“I would like to thank both the SABC and MultiChoice for reaching a solution that will benefit millions of soccer-loving South Africans,” the minister stated.
“The people of our country will now be able to watch this crucial game on a free-to-air platform. This is particularly important as our country is going through a difficult time,” she added.
MultiChoice said in a statement that it was contacted by the Ministers of Sport and Communications requesting an intervention to make the match available to the public on a free-to-air basis.
Following the Ministerial requests, MultiChoice said it approached CAF which authorised SuperSport to sub-licence rights to the SABC.
“MultiChoice is most grateful to the Honourable Ministers for their facilitation and to CAF for their understanding of the situation prevailing in our beloved country,” the pay-TV broadcaster stated.
“SuperSport has accordingly sub-licensed rights to this fixture to the SABC on mutually agreed commercial terms.”