The request mirrors similar positions being taken by broadcasters in the UK and Ireland.
Introduced in 2008, the current Must Carry regulations ensure Multichoice and other subscription broadcasters with a package of 30 channels or more include SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 in their line-ups. However, the SABC is currently required to provide its channels at no-cost.
In a letter from SABC chair, Bongumusa Makhathini, to Acting ICASA chair, Paris Mashile Makhathini argues that the Must Carry Regulations have “had a serious impact on the SABC from a potential revenue point of view”. He added that the Must Carry Regulations effectively ‘zero rate’ the three SABC channels and have created a “precedent-setting, non-commercial negotiating environment”.
Makhathini says that rather than doing a favour to the public broadcaster, Multichoice Africa has commercially benefitted at the expense of the SABC.
The public broadcaster is asking for what it describes as “relatively simple amendments” to bring Must Carry into line with other current media legislation.
A spokesperson for Multichoice told Broadband TV News has been extensively debated during the integrated ICT White Paper review process that included the funding of the public broadcaster.
“We don’t agree with the SABC that the Must Carry Regulations have failed to protect the integrity and viability of public broadcasting services, or that MultiChoice has commercially benefitted from the Regulations at the expense of the public broadcaster. The Regulations had great benefit to the public broadcaster and the public at large as SABC channels were made available nationwide on all pay television platforms, including on DStv, to fulfil the SABC’s universal access mandate.”
Icasa says it has no immediate plans to review the regulations.