Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The SABC is pinning its hopes on the broadcast regulator to hand it the Premier Soccer League (PSL) match rights on a silver platter.

The cash-strapped public broadcaster announced at the weekend that it could not afford to finance the broadcasting of the 2019/2020 PSL matches.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) was currently analysing written and oral submissions that organisations, including the SABC, PSL management and pay-channel SuperSport, had made to it.

These organisations and several others responded to Icasa's Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations, and were awaiting a decision that could see the SABC being a first-choice broadcaster of national sports and sports of national interest.

The announcement by the SABC over the weekend that it could not reach a sub-licence agreement with SuperSport has brought the Icasa process under the spotlight.

Millions of SABC TV viewers and radio listeners cannot watch or listen to the live matches.

Craig van Rooyen, the SABC's acting chief operations officer, said the offer tabled by SuperSport was not financially sustainable.

He said the SABC was expected to pay SuperSport R280million for 144 matches a year over five years, while it stood to make only R9.8m a year.

“This would not have been a commercially viable agreement for the SABC,” Van Rooyen said.

“The SABC would like to apologise to all South Africans. However, for the financial sustainability of the SABC, we will not continue with deals that are not commercially viable.”

PSL hit back at the SABC, accusing the public broadcaster of being the party that tabled an unacceptable proposal.

“According to SuperSport, the SABC proposal is tantamount to discounting the PSL rights by 96%. This would be unacceptable,” PSL said.

“In addressing this matter, it is maybe time that the nation accepts that the SABC is incapable of meeting its requirements since a 'blackout' to the majority who consume their football through free to air TV and radio is unacceptable going forward (sic).”

MultiChoice Group, owners of SuperSport, said the money that the SABC wanted to pay for sub-licensing rights posed a threat to professional football.

“For the PSL to maintain its viability as a professional football league it must receive fair value for its broadcast rights. The SABC, however, fails and or refuses to recognise this,” said Joe Heshu, the group's executive for corporate affairs.

Heshu said the SABC's proposal for PSL rights effectively amounts to a 96% reduction in fees.

“This grossly devalues the PSL and places its future sustainability and the livelihoods of its players at severe risk. The offer is unacceptable to both the PSL and MultiChoice. We trust that the SABC will review its stance and remain open to concluding an agreement on fair commercial terms.”

But the SABC is looking to Icasa for a permanent solution in its battle with the PSL and SuperSport.

In its submissions, the SABC said the regulator should avoid a situation where citizens were left out of accessing national sports because of their socio-economic standings.

“It is about time that the regulatory framework advances the public interest through availing national sporting events on free-to-air platforms,” it said.

Both the PSL and MultiChoice cautioned Icasa against tampering with current regulations.

The SA Football Association was another organisation that was “vehemently” opposed to Icasa's proposed regulations.

Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka told The Star that the broadcast regulator was still analysing the submissions.


The Star