Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni- Abrahams published a draft white paper which proposes the total overhaul of broadcasting regulations
Durban – SA Rugby said it would oppose sweeping policy changes that would force pay TV channels such as DStv to broadcast events featuring national teams on a free-to-air basis as that could threaten the sport’s commercial viability.
Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni- Abrahams published a draft white paper, “A New Vision for South Africa 2020”, which proposes the total overhaul of broadcasting regulations, including regulating the internet and the introduction of licence requirements for internet streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.
Ndabeni-Abrahams’s deputy minister, Pinky Kekana, speaking on sports rights and advertising, said there would be “unintended consequences” as had occurred when the sugar tax was introduced, and the government needed to find a way to introduce a marketing and tax regime to avoid this.
One of the policy proposals is to force pay television channels to broadcast certain sports events which are in the “public interest” on a free-to-air basis.
According to the document “it should remain the policy intention to continue to ensure that key national sports events are aired free-to-air, whilst acknowledging that certain exclusive sports events are critical to the viability of the subscription model”.
Events that should be broadcast free-to-air include major sports fixtures involving the most senior official South African national team or an individual representing the country.
The event must take place in SA and be of significant national importance. International confederation sporting events such as the Olympics or a World Cup event featuring a South African team or sportsperson are also included.
Both MultiChoice, which owns pay TV channel DStv, and SA Rugby said the existing regulations on sports broadcasting did not need to be amended.
A spokesperson for SA Rugby said any further restrictions to a sport’s ability to sell events to broadcasters could be detrimental to the survival of a code.
“We have repeatedly said that we believe the current regulations meet an appropriate balance between national interest and the commercial needs of sport. Any move to further inhibit a sport’s ability to sell its event to broadcasters is a threat to the continuation of that sport. We will make known our objections to the white paper through the appropriate channels.”
MultiChoice welcomed the release of the paper, saying it “responds to the rapidly changing digital world that broadcasters find themselves in. We will be responding to the proposals made in the white paper which will impact the entire audio-visual sector.
“We are awaiting Icasa’s decision on proposed amendments to the Sports Broadcasting Regulations, as are all stakeholders that engaged extensively in this process. It remains our view that the current regulations strike a balanced approach and should not be amended.”
Approached for comment, South African Football Association (Safa) chief executive Tebogo Motlanthe said at the moment this was still a white paper and it was not possible to speak on the matter until Safa had taken a position.
He said the matter would be placed before, and dealt with by, their executive before the organisation could pronounce on a position.
The white paper also aims to regulate advertising on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix and proposes that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) create regulations to protect children from advertising of “alcoholic beverages and harmful foods high in salt, sugars, fat, saturated fats or trans-fatty acids or that otherwise do not fit national or international nutritional guidelines”.
According to the white paper, video- sharing platforms such as YouTube will have to comply with regulations on the protection of minors, hate speech, incitement to violence and public provocation to commit a terrorist offence.
Online platforms will have to establish a self-regulatory code of conduct or comply with a statutory code to achieve this.
Kekana on Tuesday reiterated the policy shift when she told a parliamentary committee on Communications and Digital Technologies that her department needed to help the public broadcaster with “urgent policy and legislation reforms that will directly increase SABC revenue”, in particular, licence fees.
She said the government would engage with pay TV providers and explore how they could “assist us to collect on TV licences” via Icasa.
“But we are not only limiting it to TV. We also have other platforms.”