Cape Town - It's time to clear the air, according to Free Market Foundation (FMF) executive director, Leon Louw.
In a two-hour discussion with media, Louw wants the public to get a better understanding of sports broadcasting rights and what sporting bodies are putting forward in order to get consumers to view more live games.
"Under the pretext of increasing 'free-to-air' broadcasting, ICASA proposes the destruction of the rights and interests of sports bodies, participants, broadcasters and, most seriously, consumers," said Louw, who is against the proposed draft on sports broadcasting amendment regulations lead by the Independent Communications Association of South Africa (ICASA) and the Competition Commission of South Africa (CCSA).
"It wants the elimination of freedom of choice and contract, and wants bureaucrats, devoid of relevant qualifications or experience, to decide the minutiae of who may, may not and must broadcast sport."
The FMF - co-founded by Louw in 1975 - is a "think tank" and a non-profit organisation that seeks to further "human rights and democracy" and wheel society forward with "the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic liberalism and press freedom."
Last year, ICASA and the CCSA forwarded a 'draft' sports broadcasting services amendment regulations.
ICASA plans to introduce "a new list of sporting events and codes, divided into three groups according to the level of public interest," the association stated in the draft sports broadcasting services amendment regulations.
"Regulation 5 is amended to indicate the national sporting events that must be broadcast on full live coverage on Free-to-air (FTA) (Group A) and subscription broadcasts (Group B) and by both categories of broadcasters (Group C).
"Group A includes premium and major sports events such as the Summer Olympic Games, Paralympics, FIFA World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, Rugby World Cup and ICC Cricket World Cup, among others that must be broadcast by FTA."
ICASA, CCSA colluding?
Louw - an author, speaker and policy advisor - believes that ICASA and CCSA have colluded, and it is disguised as a partnership.
"When private firms collaborate legitimately, they are accused of 'collusion'. So, for the two regulators to collaborate illegitimately is doubly reprehensible collusion," Louw continues.
"Massive fines and stifling controls - and potential criminal charges - imposed by the commission on private firms should, in fact, be imposed on itself."
A solution to the confusion? Louw strongly suggests that the "daft" draft be "abandoned".
"Broadcasters who 'cannot acquire' rights, 'must', as if by immaculate conception, broadcast events," Louw said.
"And what does 'cannot acquire' mean when paying enough is enough to get rights?
"Hitherto, their failure to offer enough allowed subscription broadcasters to buy exclusive rights. Exclusivity attracted substantial revenue for sport, which benefited sport and consumers.
"If the freedom of contract and exclusivity are banned, sport will be devastated. Since the daft draft is technically and conceptually flawed, it must be abandoned."
Major TV blackout on national sports
Louw's concerns comes on the back of the Springboks' 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph where they beat England 32-12 in the final.
The national broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), failed to reach a deal with International Management Group (IMG), the company that managed the TV licensing for the World Cup in Japan.
SuperSport broadcast all the World Cup matches and screened exclusive interviews with Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi.
The vast majority of the South African public are not DSTV subscribers and would've had to find alternative ways of watching - at pubs, malls and various other shops in their respective cities.
However, after the first match between hosts Japan and Russia, the SABC informed the public that some matches would be broadcast on radio - including all Springbok games, both semi-finals and the final.
Radio remains the SABC's biggest platform and brings in the most revenue for the cash-strapped broadcaster.
Just over a month later, the Springboks secured their spot in the final and days before kick-off the public were itching to watch the match live.
The SABC then struck a marketing deal with World Cup sponsor Heineken which allowed the national broadcaster to televise the match live.
It all worked out in the end.
Meanwhile, national soccer team, Bafana Bafana kicked off their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) away to Ghana earlier this month, but South Africans were unable to view the match on SuperSport or the SABC.
The South African public are unable to watch any official Confederation of African Football (CAF) matches since the association cancelled their $1 billion broadcasting deal with Lagardere earlier this month.
The SABC and SuperSport have not acquired viewing rights to official CAF matches outside of South Africa - which includes Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederations Cup and the Under-23 AFCON.
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