Friday, July 16, 2021

After SABC throws hissy-fit over CAF final rights, ICASA slams the public broadcaster as MultiChoice and ministers on Friday work to have SuperSport sub-license match to SABC1 to boost national mood after week of unrest and looting.

by Thinus Ferreira

The final match of the current CAF League season between Kaizer Chiefs and Egypt's Al Ahly will be broadcast on SABC1 on Saturday 17 July after the SABC threw a hissy-fit on Friday and lashed out at the country's broadcasting regulator and SuperSport, after which ICASA slammed the SABC, and MultiChoice, SuperSport and two government ministries then worked to sub-license the rights to the SABC as a moral boost for South Africa following a week of unrest and looting.

On Friday the South African public broadcast as usual issued a press statement, this time saying that the SABC "regrets to announce that it has been denied the opportunity of broadcasting the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League final between Kaizer Chiefs and Egypt's Al Ahly".

The SABC said that it was "surprised and disappointed to learn yesterday that CAF had sold the exclusive rights to broadcast the final to the pay-TV broadcaster, Supersport. 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 said that "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 didn't say when it started to negotiate for the once-off CAF match rights for the final of which SuperSport secured the season rights a while ago and also showed all matches instead of the SABC that wants to pick-and-pay individual matches at short notice.

The SABC said that it "had always intended to broadcast this historic match given the massive support Kaizer Chiefs enjoys in South Africa" and that it "therefore engaged in good faith negotiations with CAF but for some reason CAF withheld information about their exclusive deal with the pay-TV broadcaster until yesterday."

"It simply cannot be in the public interest for CAF and Supersport to contractually exclude millions of non-pay-TV subscribers from watching this game," the SABC said.

"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 SABC said.

The South African broadcaster then continued to attack South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), saying "The failure of ICASA's Sports Rights regulations to deal with this situation means the public broadcaster has no recourse to the regulator even though broadcasting the CAF Champions League final - involving one of South Africa’s biggest clubs - is clearly part of SABC’s public mandate".

"Despite this unfortunate outcome driven by two parties who do not have public service obligations, and clearly do not have the poor’s interest at heart, the SABC remains committed to bringing big sporting events to all South Africans."

ICASA slams the SABC for its inappropriate outburst
On Friday at 15:00 ICASA in a press statement fired back at the SABC, saying that it has "noted with great concern" the SABC's statement and that the existing sports rights regulations doesn't prohibit a media outlet like SuperSport from "the acquisition of exclusive rights" and that Kaizer Chiefs playing in the final of CAF isn't even a national sporting event.

"Even though Kaizer Chiefs has a huge fan base in South Africa, it is not considered a Senior National Team," said Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, ICASA chairperson and that SuperSport acquiring the CAF matches and exclusive rights to the final is allowed and that nothing is wrong with that.

"It's a clear case of commercial agreement between parties which is allowed in law and the SABC cannot attribute its commercial shortcomings to the regulator," .Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, said.

"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."

"The SABC's accusation of ICASA in this matter is clearly inappropriate. We do not believe it is productive nor constructive to be receiving such media attributions from the public broadcaster without formal engagement," Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said.

CAF final licensed to SABC because of 'very sad circumstances' in SA
On Friday evening MultiChoice and SuperSport announced in a press statement that SuperSport has been authorised to now sub-license the CAF final to the SABC that will presumably broadcast it on SABC1 on Saturday and that it has been done to try and boost the mood of South Africa because of the unrest and looting that marred the country this past week.

MultiChoice also slammed the SABC for what the pay-TV operator called "disparaging and factually incorrect remarks regarding MultiChoice and the rights it acquired".

"Having regard to the very sad circumstances which have played out in the country during the past week and the need for the upliftment of the public in these difficult times, the ministers of sport, arts and recreation and of communications have been in contact with MultiChoice requesting an intervention in order that the match be made available to the public on a free-to-air basis," MultiChoice said.

"Given this intervention, MultiChoice has approached CAF, which has now kindly 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. SuperSport has accordingly sub-licensed rights to this fixture to the SABC on mutually agreed commercial terms," MultiChoice said.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications, in a statement on Friday evening said that "I would like to thank both the SABC and MultiChoice for reaching a solution that will benefit millions of soccer-loving South Africans".

"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," Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

SABC ... again (on Friday evening)
On Friday evening at 18:58 in yet another statement, the SABC said that "The SABC is very pleased to announce that, after successful commercial negotiations with Supersport today, the CAF Champions League final will be shown live on SABC1 tomorrow 17 July 2021, with match build-up at 20:00 and kick-off at 21:00."