Sports Sermon: SABC and free-to-air channels in need of a permanent solution

It might not have been Albert Einstein, as it is largely attributed to, who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Well, whoever coined the phrase must have been a nerd – a bookworm who could be used to turn around the fortune of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

For the umpteenth time, the SABC needed to run to daddy’s office to acquire the rights to broadcast the Rugby World Cup tournament that started on Friday in France.

Poor SABC again depended on the intervention of the Ministry of Sports, headed by Zizi Kodwa, to stop them from taking warm-klaps from the rich boys in the swanky offices in Randburg.
How many times has this happened that just before a major tournament, the SABC goes cap in hand, begging for broadcast crumbs from Mutlichoice and its subsidiary, SuperSport.

In 2019, former sports minister Nathi Mthethwa had to intervene to end the blackout of PSL matches on SABC when the opening few weeks of the 2019/20 PSL were not televised on the public broadcaster. A five-year agreement was reached between the Department of Sport and Recreation‚ the PSL‚ SuperSport and the SABC.

This week, now with Mthethwa out in the cold and Kodwa in the groove, the same parties have been at each other’s throats like warring siblings. It needed Kodwa to sit them down and hypnotise them with his mambo-jumbo on national unity, social cohesion and nation building. Well, such hot-air on social cohesion and nation building does not pay the bill and as far as Supersport is concerned, it has the broadcast rights and the SABC must pay for a sub-licence – as is international standard practice.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) as the regulatory body, should come to the party and deal with the blatant bullying that is there for everyone to see. The acquiring of “free to air rights” and “radio broadcast rights” is a clear indication of showing off your muscles.

For Christ’s sake, Supersport does not have radio broadcasting ambitions nor has shown an intention to one day run fully-fledged radio stations, which is the lifeblood and income generator of public broadcasting.

Safa sponsorship with the SABC is also coming to an end next month and the word in the Safa House corridors is that the national association is heading towards the direction of the highest bidder, the moneybags in Randburg.
Safa believes it has been short-changing itself and it is now tired of the pittance it has been getting from Auckland Park.

It is also high time for it to leave the negotiating table like Clint Eastwood, with a “Fistful of Dollars”, so to speak.

What the government needs to do is to go back and push the Competition Commission and Icasa to address the matter of the free-to-air rights category and the radio rights, which Supersport should not have… and not to come up with powder-puff temporary solutions every time.

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