Thursday, February 7, 2019

Safa slams SA broadcasting regulator, Icasa's destructive changes to TV sports rights regulations, warns it 'will have a devastating effect on football in South Africa'.

The South African Football Association (Safa) is slamming the broadcasting regulator's destructive, highly-criticised and apparently idiotic, ill-informed plan for changes to TV sports rights regulations in South Africa, saying it will have a devastating effect on football in the country.

The Premier Soccer League and sport bodies have already spoken out publicly about how the proposed changes to TV sports licensing regulations will destroy sporting codes like rugby, soccer as well as broadcasters like MultiChoice and SuperSport who pay a lot of money - funnelled to sports - to acquire broadcasting rights that stay-at-home viewers in turn pay for.

In a strongly-worded and lengthy statement, Safa slams Icasa - and the SABC - over the shocking and daft draft regulations (published here).

ALSO READ: Serious harm awaits sports and sports broadcasting in South Africa in daft and shocking proposed new rules about TV sports rights from South Africa's broadcasting regulator.

ALSO READ: Premier Soccer League boss Irvin Khoza slams South Africa's broadcaster regulator; warns that Icasa's dumb and destructive sports rights regulations will destroy and dump SA sports back in the 1980's.

Safa says that it as "taken note of Icasa's proposed amendments to the Sports Broadcasting Services Regulations, and like most sporting federations in the country, cannot agree with the proposals being made by Icasa, and will vehemently oppose them in the current format."

"It is common knowledge that sporting federations in South Africa and the world at large, rely on the sale of their broadcast rights to broadcasters, to help sustain their development programs and unfunded projects for the growth of the sport – and Safa is no different in this respect," says Safa.

"In Safa's case, this funding by and large - probably as close as 80% - comes directly from revenue generated in the sale of broadcast rights.

"It is therefore very easy to see that the effects of the proposed Icasa regulations will have a devastating effect on the development and growth of football in this country, if Safa is prohibited from securing the appropriate market related financial value associated with broadcast rights, from prospective broadcasting partners."

"One only has to listen to the chairman of the National Soccer League to appreciate the effects it will have on their segment of the game, and when you consider the impact he speaks of and the effects it will have on participants of around 2000 players, all generally living well above the bread line."

"If the impact on the National Soccer League will be so great, just imagine the effects on Safa, whose 3 000 000 plus members, by and large, are either living just on the breadline or generally below the breadline."

"Furthermore by virtue of Safa being listed under Category A: Compulsory Must-carry Live and in full; the impact on Safa's commercial program will be even more severe," warns the organisation.

'Clear Icasa hasn't considered the impact'
"It is clear that Icasa has not considered the effects and impacts of this on sporting federations, let alone the broadcaster - and in this case as they wish to dictate the free to air broadcaster."

"Neither does it seem Icasa considered the practice of what they propose, or for that matter the actual role players."

"Let’s just consider the current landscape of free-to-air broadcasters in South Africa. There is the SABC and who in this case does not even have a sports footprint, so one is limited to the SABC by and large".

"It is clear that if the SABC was mandated to ensure the live broadcast of the events that Icasa wishes them to broadcast, they would not have sufficient airtime or TV hours to do all of this as and when they occur despite having 3 channels".

"Where will the SABC get the necessary infrastructure - camera’s, OB units, vehicles etc. - and human resources (cameramen/women) to produce live? And if they do acquire these, it would increase their operating expenses more than 3 fold."

"It would, therefore, appear that the free-to-air broadcaster would have to approach the sporting federations to play matches at times which they are not accustomed to, and this then has a further knock-on effect."

"Fans wanting to attend these events live would be inconvenienced and as such not be able to attend, thus further affecting commercial revenue for the federations as well as the atmosphere at events."

"Costs for event staging would go up, as facilities would be required to operate on times/days that they usually do not. Furthermore and quite importantly too, advertising revenue to the broadcaster will be affected, as the TV audience and timing of the event may not be as they have wanted."

"The effects on not wanting to allow sporting federations to negotiate contracts that offer exclusivity to a broadcaster is also absurd, in that the very essence of deriving greater revenue for the rights holder is exactly this offer of exclusivity," says Safa.

"When broadcasters are offered exclusivity by the rights holder, they are able to pay the rights holder a higher fee, as they themselves as the broadcaster is able to offer advertisers an opportunity of a bigger audience watching their adverts and as such charge these advertisers at a higher rate card."

"When a product/event is available anywhere and everywhere, it loses its value and does not become commercially viable for the buyer of the rights to exploit in a manner which serves their business or for that matter to pay the value the rights holder attaches to their property," says Safa.

"Ironically, perhaps the greatest unintended consequence of the regulations is that it will once and for all remove any possibility for the entry of a new subscription broadcast competitor to the local market – which as we understand it, was one of the main objectives of the regulations."

"Without the possibility of ever securing exclusive broadcast rights (pay-TV and free-to-air) for the most sought-after sports content in the country, the likelihood of growing a subscriber base is severely limited, particularly now when faced with the added competition from the wrath of unregulated global over-the-top players, such as Netflix, with budgets that dwarf even the largest of players currently in our market."

'SABC quite silent'
"It is quite significant through all these debates on the proposed Icasa regulations, that the SABC itself has been quite silent on this matter and not expressed a view, much the same for the other free-to-air broadcaster, but is probably understandable given their non-existent sports footprint and moreover because they do not have channel/airtime capacity as matters stand," says Safa.

"The SABC has been quite vociferous in their commentary about sports broadcasts, claiming that it costs them millions of rands in displacements costs. So if they would have to broadcast more sport live, where will they find the airtime and TV hours to broadcast their soapies?"

"Which again, if they are not able to do, will be part of this vicious circle where they lose more money in advertising revenue if they can't show soapies," says Safa.

"It's also interesting to note that Icasa lists the IAAF in their proposed regulations - so given that the IAAF is not a federation in South Africa, nor is it an event - how do they plan to regulate them, and exactly what will they be regulating?"

'ignorant regulations poorly drafted'
"On the whole, it must be said that the regulations are poorly drafted and open to varying interpretations," says Safa.

"The fact that Icasa, in the case of football, listed CAF and FIFA matches down, without clarity of which matches these are, also shows ignorance to the sport."

"If for example, they remain as broad as it reads now, this would have a negative impact on the very people they wish to support, as the rights would not be of any value in South Africa, as prospective broadcast buyers of these rights from CAF and FIFA would not have exclusivity and as such not capitalize on viewership and advertisers and therefore not be in a position to mitigate their rights costs," says Safa.

"There would thus be a strong possibility of these matches/world class events not being shown in South Africa. This would the same in the case of the other sporting federations major international world events."

"Safa has over the years been very diligent on compliance with what Icasa had regulated before, ensuring that the masses of our country were able to have access to all of the national teams and tournaments."

"We remain committed to the objective to ensure that the masses will always have access to their national teams as well, but we alone cannot be doing so at the expense of our members, the development of the game and or its growth."

"The proposed regulations in its current format will thus have a drastic effect on sports federations, and Safa, in particular, will find itself hard-pressed to deliver on its social mandate of growing the game and providing opportunities for the ordinary South African to achieve sporting excellence on the football field."

"More importantly, it will not be in a position to provide career/employment opportunities that football offers through becoming professional football players, coaching, refereeing, administration of clubs etc."