SABC REQUESTS ICASA TO REVIEW ‘MUST CARRY’ TV REGULATIONS
Johannesburg, Wednesday, 22 November 2017 – The SABC has requested that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) conduct an urgent public review of regulations that allow Multichoice and other subscription broadcasters to carry SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 for free.
Known in the industry as the “Must Carry Regulations” and passed in 2008, these regulations ensure that all subscription broadcasters with more than 30 channels “must carry” the SABC’s three free-to-air television channels. However, contrary to the enabling legislation which provides for “commercial negotiations” between the parties, the regulations state the SABC “must offer its television programmes, at no cost,” to subscription broadcasters.
In a letter from SABC Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, to Acting ICASA Chairperson, Paris Mashile on 21 November 2017, Mr. Makhathini explained that the Must Carry Regulations have “had a serious impact on the SABC from a potential revenue point of view”. He added that the Must Carry Regulations effectively ‘zero rate’ the three SABC channels and have created a “precedent-setting, non-commercial negotiating environment”.
The SABC submission states further that in 2008:
“……the regulations seemed to be drafted on the basis that the “must carry obligation” was an onerous one for subscription broadcasters and that these broadcasters would be ‘doing the public broadcaster a favour’ by carrying its channels as part of a subscription television bouquet. The SABC will demonstrate in the public process that, on the contrary, the SABC Must Carry Channels have commercially benefited Multichoice Africa at the expense of the public broadcaster”.
SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 are among the most watched channels on DStv.
The SABC Board is currently conducting an urgent review of all contracts and regulations that negatively impact on the sustainability of the public broadcaster.
Mr. Makhathini stated in the letter that:
“…By reviewing and amending the regulations to comply with the enabling legislation, the Authority will be fulfilling one of its core statutory objectives as set out in section 2(t) of the Electronic Communications Act, 2006 which is to ‘protect the integrity and viability of public broadcasting services’.
It is the SABC’s view that the 2008 regulations have unfortunately failed to protect the viability of the public broadcaster and it is on this basis that we submit that the Authority should urgently commence a separate, public regulatory process to review the Must Carry Regulations”.
The SABC’s has proposed relatively simple amendments to the regulations that only seek to bring the Must Carry Regulations in line with the enabling legislation and create the correct regulatory framework for commercial negotiations between the public broadcaster and subscription broadcasters.
In the interests of transparency and the public interest, the SABC has forwarded its letter to known, SA-based subscription broadcasters. For the public, other interested parties and broadcasters, the SABC has also made its letter to ICASA available. Click here to access the letter to ICASA
Media Enquiries: Philly Moilwa, GM: Regulatory Affairs (SABC)
082 903 2544