The ANC is searching for ways to expand sports in South Africa. The political party, according to the Sunday Times, suggests that South African sports should be free to watch, via the SABC. The suggestion comes from the ANC’s own documents set for the party’s conference in July. If these rules see the light of day, it would be some time after the conference.
The ANC hopes to introduce a ban on exclusive sports broadcasting rights being sold. This would keep Multichoice (and DStv) from controlling the market in South Africa. It would also give the SABC a lifeline to cling to. For now, it’s just a proposal from the political party, but it could bring about a real change in sports broadcasting in SA.
DStv on top – for now
The ANC believes matches involving the Springboks, Proteas, and Bafana Bafana should be free through the SABC for South Africa’s citizens. Or, if not for free, then at least for a significantly reduced cost. Not only would it be free/cheaper, but the matches would ideally be broadcast live, rather than shown at a delayed time.
While this would hurt Multichoice and DStv, it could be the saving grace that SABC is looking for. Recent reports indicate that SABC is consistently losing money annually due to people not watching its content, and thus refusing to pay their TV licence fees.
Nkenke Kekana, head of the ANC communications subcommittee, said, “As the ANC we are saying, let’s have a discussion to ensure that especially sports of national interests are watched by all South Africans”.
The ANC believes that the use of exclusive rights for South African sports is stifling player salaries. This in turn harms the development of potential players at a young age. If the reward was more enticing, South Africa may have a bigger impact on world sports than it currently does.
“The benefits of having a public broadcaster far outweigh the funding required to deliver public service content. SA’s current broadcasting system requires a different form of funding,” said Kekana.
This would indeed be a big leap in funding for the SABC. More viewers mean increased ad revenue, which means better content. In theory, anyway. And if the recently proposed motion replaces SA’s traditional TV licence with a ‘tech-neutral’ general levy, the SABC would be swimming in revenue.
ICASA joining the fight
The ANC isn’t the only one trying to make a change in this regard. Back in 2020, ICASA published a draft of its Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations. The proposal would see a list of sports be shown for free in South Africa, such as the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, and AFCON, along with plenty of others.
Since then, nothing has changed. But earlier this month, ICASA announced it would be relaunching the proposal for the Subscription Broadcasting Services. If this were to go through, it would be a monumental win for South Africans. Many subscribers are moving away from DStv as a source of media content but still pay for the luxury of live sports.
The change, from either ANC or ICASA, wouldn’t only help SABC and South Africans, though that would be the headline. A change could possibly force DStv and Multichoice to take a look at its pricing, and adjust accordingly. Who knows, it might force the pay-TV provider to finally roll out that Flex package we’ve heard so much about. Or these proposals could fizzle out and leave us stuck with Multichoice and DStv. Either way, we’ll know in a few months which way the wind ends up blowing.