Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Cape Town - Appearing before Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, the SABC board and executive have pleaded for regulations on sports broadcasting rights, specifically, regulations requiring the public broadcaster to air certain sporting codes be relaxed.

The SABC owed its creditors R694 million with further accruals of R475 million, and according to its Chief Financial Officer Yolandi van Biljon would only have R26 million in its bank account by the end of August.

In this context, SABC chief operating officer Chris Maroleng told the MPs that the broadcaster urgently required assistance for the public broadcaster to meet its mandate.

He said failure of the SABC to fund the gap in its resources would mean that would be unable to broadcast certain events, designated as crucial for social cohesion.

“There will also be a potential reputational challenge to the SABC (over failure to broadcast certain events) should we be unable to meet this funding requirement. There will be an outcry from the public if we do not fulfil this important mandate.

“We also believe that our inability to broadcast certain events may result in us experiencing a significant decline in our advertising revenue. We could very well see a decline in the tv license revenue,” said Maroleng.

He said Icasa’s regulations, requiring the SABC to broadcast 22 designated sporting codes was onerous on the corporation and it faced a fine of R500 000 for failing to comply.

“Not only does the SABC have an onerous unfunded public mandate, in terms of the broadcasting of national sporting events, but the SABC has not been protected by the 2010 sports rights regulations.

“This is very important to note because the failure to protect the public broadcaster essentially means that the SABC has now to absorb these costs, from our inability to broadcasts these sports,” said Maroleng.

He said the SABC had pleaded with Icasa to review the sports broadcasting regulations, more recently in the context of the regulator’s inquiry into pay tv and competition.

“During this inquiry, we made it abundantly clear that there were a couple of issues that were structurally present in regards to the regulation of sports broadcasting, particularly in relation to the SABC that we would request be reviewed,” said Maroleng.

He said the SABC would ask that any new regulations include anti-hoarding provisions to ensure that broadcasters were not allowed a situation where they bought up all the sporting events.

Maroleng said the SABC had suggested to Icasa that all these sports rights be unbundled, with separate rights for free-to-air broadcasters and separate rights for pay TV broadcasters.

Political Bureau