SABC doesn't deserve the first bite at national sport
If one were looking for unity in sport, look no further than all the bodies objecting to the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (Icasa's) draft bill aimed at effectively nationalising broadcasting rights. Basically, the proposal is that the SABC would have to be offered the first bite of the cherry when it comes to sports events of national importance. Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairman Irvin Khoza spoke out against the proposed legislation this week, saying it could cause the collapse of professional football in the country.
"Icasa claims to be making these amendments in the public interest to prohibit subscription broadcasting services from acquiring exclusive rights that prevent or hinder free-to-air broadcasting of any national sporting event as identified as a public interest," said Khoza.
He also said there already had been much consideration given to free-to-air broadcasts, arguing that the Soweto Derby and cup finals were still shown on SABC.
"To take the limited exclusivity from the broadcast rights owner will devalue the broadcast rights to the effect that the PSL will not be able to afford to stage the events where it creates the content that the broadcaster currently buys."
Khoza is not the only sports administrator worried about the proposals. The suits at rugby, cricket and even boxing are nervous, not to mention the bosses at SuperSport.
Nobody will want to invest in broadcast rights if there's no guarantee they can actually get to use them to make a profit.
The most bizarre aspect is that the SABC doesn't deserve to get this type of protection. The organisation is in a state of effective collapse and has struggled to secure the rights it already owns to Bafana Bafana matches of late because it is behind in its payments to the South African Football Association.
Most sports in this country are struggling financially, with football, rugby and cricket being the rare exceptions. The bulk of their earnings come from broadcast rights, and sponsorships that are directly linked to the exposure guaranteed by those rights.
Nobody wants to see the so-called big three of South African sport collapsing.