No sooner had the SABC and MultiChoice agreed on a broadcast deal for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) than the topic was back in the news – for all the wrong reasons. Again.
eMedia – which broadcasts free-to-air channel eTV and the eNCA news channel on MultiChoice’s DStv – has published an open letter warning that 3.2 million South African households will not be able to view the sporting spectacle. These households rely on OpenView, a satellite broadcasting platform run by eMedia, which carries SABC1, 2, 3 and SABC Sport.
“It is important to note that Openview does not generate any revenue from the SABC channels, which proves even more that the decision taken by MultiChoice makes no sense to deprive SABC viewers of access to the Rugby World Cup, especially now that five of nine provinces can only view television through the satellite platform,” eMedia CEO Khalik Sherrif wrote in the letter.
It was addressed to MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice SA CEO Marc Jury, SuperSport CEO Teix Texeira, as well as Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa, Communications and Digital Technology Minister Mondli Gungubele, Trade and Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, and Competition Commissioner Doris Tshepe.
[eMedia disliked that.]
The SABC announced last Thursday, the day before the World Cup began, that it had concluded a last-minute deal to broadcast 16 RWC games, including all the Springbok tests, the opening and closing ceremonies, the final and third-place play-offs, and one each of the semi-finals and quarter-finals.
But, says eMedia, “More than 3 million SABC viewing households currently access the SABC solely through OpenView.” And seeing as “analogue transmission by the SABC has largely been switched off” in the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the North West, and the Northern Cape, many viewers in these provinces ” are only able to access the SABC through OpenView.”
“It bears emphasis that OpenView does not earn any money from the advertising that is placed on the SABC channels as this accrues solely to the national broadcaster,” said Sherrif.
eMedia says this “restrictive (and overtly anti-competitive) action of MultiChoice” which prohibits the SABC from broadcasting through the OpenView platform “undermines the national imperative of digital migration…[and] that millions of SABC viewers are unjustly and unjustifiably being precluded from watching the Rugby World Cup”.
It added: “This undermines consumer welfare and is contrary to the public interest.”
Issued last Friday, the day the global rugby event began, eMedia gave a 6pm deadline for MultiChoice to respond, or it would engage in legal challenges.
“The anticompetitive action is nothing short of domination in trying to prescribe to the free-to-air partner on how to use its broadcasting rights. We believe the action should be strongly condemned and opposed,” said Sherrif.
“The 3.2 million households which have been affected by the decision should voice their dissatisfaction.”