DStv dominance must be broken: Minister

Premium entertainment and sport-related content needs to be made available to South Africans who can’t afford a pay TV subscription, Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim told Mail & Guardian during a Google Hangout on Friday (23 August 2013).

This followed a similar statement made yesterday by Carrim during the launch of the Guptas’ DStv news channel, ANN7.

Carrim said that we have seen a dominance by one broadcaster in premium and sports-related content, and that he wants to prevent the situation where only one player has access to such content.

He dismissed concerns that government interventions in this regard would favour the politically connected and said that the fact that he rose this point at the ANN7 launch should not reflect on their intentions.

“You can’t separate what I said about premium content from what I say about community broadcasting in the very same breath,” Carrim told the journalist questioning him. “We are levelling the playing fields. Not for ANN7. For everyone,” he said.

Yunus Carrim header
Yunus Carrim header

Carrim went on to say that his deployment as a Minister is “for now” and that his main concern as a progressive activist of 40 years, and the concern of the ANC as a progressive party, is community broadcasters.

They are less concerned about commercial broadcasters, Carrim said, but added that “even there we have to open opportunities for people.”

According to Carrim, the aim is to make what is currently restricted on pay TV available, as far as possible within the law and within the policy frameworks of government, to people who can’t afford a pay TV subscription.

He suggested that it is irrelevant whether they achieve this through community broadcasters or commercial free-to-air broadcasters. “Because really it’s about people who can watch that free-to-air at no cost… why should they not have access to football?” Carrim asked.

DStv sport exclusivity

This isn’t the first time that questions have been raised over the exclusive rights enjoyed by Naspers-owned DStv-operator MultiChoice.

Former Minister of Communications Dina Pule said in May 2013 that she would issue a policy directive to improve competition in the broadcasting sector.

At the the time it was likely that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) would focus on long term exclusivity deals on premium content, including sport.

Hitting back at these earlier statements, Naspers CEO Koos Bekker said that it was ridiculous to consider doing away with exclusive rights on sports broadcasting.

Koos Bekker
Koos Bekker

“I was on the World Cup Committee for ten years, the income statement looks like this: 90% of all the income for the Soccer World Cup was from TV rights and everything else, all the seats sold in the stadium, all the scarves, all the sponsorships amounted to less than 10%,” Bekker said.

“TV pays the bills,” said Bekker.

He went on to explain that in the case of the local Premier Soccer League, they [MultiChoice/Naspers] pay for everything.

“We pay for every player and the lights at the stadium and…the backroom, we pay all the bills.” Bekker said that the reason they can pay the bill is because they have exclusive rights on the content.

“The moment government were to say ‘Okay, E-tv you have it’, it loses all appeal for us because no one will pay us to get something which is available for free, which means the value will drop to a tenth of what it is now and clubs simply can’t pay the players,” Bekker said.

The cost of live football on DStv

SuperSport 3 and 4 are the channels set aside on DStv for local and international football matches and are available on the DStv Premium, DStv Extra, and DStv Compact bouquets.

SS3, 4, and 9 are the only numbered SuperSport channels available on bouquets other than DStv Premium. DStv Premium costs R625/month, DStv Extra costs R380/month, and DStv Compact costs R275/month.

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DStv dominance must be broken: Minister