Friday, December 2, 2022

MultiChoice and SABC deadlocked in must-carry conflict on price to pay for public broadcaster's TV channels which must be shown on DStv.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster and MultiChoice are deadlocked in their must-carry conflict over what price to pay for the SABC's TV channels and which are compulsory to be shown on DStv, with the SABC and the pay-TV operator now going to the country's broadcasting regulator for an arbitration process to establish a price.

While the carriage agreement for SABC News, the broadcaster's 24-hour TV news channel is a separate contract for which MultiChoice is paying the SABC, the SABC wants payment for the must-carry carriage of its terrestrial TV channels SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) in a review earlier this year of the so-called "must-carry" regulations, said that while must-carry will remain, pay-TV operators like MultiChoice and StarTimes's StarSat must pay for these channels as well.

Icasa noted that the public broadcaster and pay-TV operators must meet and hash out an agreement for what these SABC TV channels are worth and then sign a new channels carriage agreement "subject to commercially negotiable terms".

In April this year, the SABC said that it was looking "forward to negotiating in good faith with MultiChoice and other subscription broadcasters which have thus far been carrying the SABC's channels and some of South Africa's most-watched programmes at no cost".

Months later those negotiations have now stalled and deadlocked.

"We have been in negotiations with MultiChoice for the last couple of months now. We've unfortunately deadlocked on that," Ian Plaatjes, SABC COO told parliament this week. "We will now be going through an Icasa arbitration process."