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The truth about the SABC-MultiChoice deal

By Nolo Letele Time of article published Apr 19, 2015

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Nolo Letele explains MultiChoice’s side after the Sunday Independent’s article on its agreement with the SABC.


Johannesburg - Last week The Sunday Independent claimed to expose a “diabolical and secret deal” between the SABC and MultiChoice. The article and conclusions are a complete fabrication. I’d like to use this opportunity to set the record straight.

The MultiChoice-SABC deal is not a secret, rather it is a standard commercial agreement for the supply of two television channels – a news channel (already on DStv) and an entertainment channel (which will be added shortly).

So, why do some people say MultiChoice has taken control of the SABC’s archive? Frankly, I don’t know.

This lie has been repeated so often that it seems some people have come to believe it. The truth is MultiChoice does not have, has never had and will never have control over the SABC’s archive.

It’s true that we specifically commissioned the entertainment channel from the SABC. This channel consists of some content from the SABC archive – less than 1 percent of their total archive. We have no editorial or scheduling control over this channel.

The SABC retains full ownership of that content. Any claims to the contrary are presumably based on the misreading of an outdated version of a channel supply agreement deliberately leaked by nameless, faceless people.

So, what’s different about MultiChoice’s agreement with the SABC?

Nothing! Our agreement with the SABC is no different from any of the hundreds of agreements we have with other channel suppliers, locally and internationally.

The licensing of archive content and the commissioning of channels is a standard industry practice.

For example, we licensed M-Net archive content to (and no one cried foul) and SABC licenses archive content to the Times Media Group (again no one cried foul).

In determining the price we pay for archive content and in addition to the range of channels we carry, various factors, such as degree of exclusivity, scarcity of content, age of content and other commercial factors are taken into account. There is no standard price list, nor can there ever be.

What has not been reported on is how we have unlocked value for the SABC – here I’m referring to the process of digitising the SABC archive.

For the archive to be of commercial value, it must be in a digital format.

Unfortunately, much of the SABC archive is still in analogue format and must be converted to digital for our broadcast systems.

This is a costly process and the cost of doing this is partly offset against the content licence fees.

Once completed, it will unlock tremendous value for the SABC and the future licensing of this content without incurring any further digitisation costs.

Any suggestion that there is anything wrong with the nature of our relationship with the SABC is nonsense and not supported by the facts.


* Letele is executive chairman of MultiChoice.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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