SABC defers submission on advertising revenue, TV licence collection at Icasa inquiry

The SABC building in Auckland Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • The SABC has asked for its submission on TV licences and advertising revenue – which it was expected to make at a hearing held by Icasa on Wednesday – to be deferred. 
  • However, it does want an inquiry into the matter. 
  • The public broadcaster brought forward a list of other submissions intended to make it more sustainable. 

The South African Broadcasting Corporation will defer its submission on advertising revenue and TV licence collection, which it was expected to make at a hearing held by the Independent Communications Authority of SA, it said on Wednesday. 

Icasa is holding public hearings (12 – 15 January 2021) regarding the draft findings document on the Inquiry into Subscription Television Broadcasting Services. This is part of its investigation into competition in the pay-TV sector. 

On Wednesday, the national broadcaster appeared at the hearing with a list of submissions, but also announced that it had decided to defer its submission on advertising revenue and TV licence collection, saying that these matters could be effectively dealt with in a separate process relating to the Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services (AAVCS) draft white paper, which was released last year. 

The white paper proposed sweeping changes to broadcasting policy.

Urgent inquiry

“As SABC we believe we can deal with this matter much more extensively because it has been raised within the audio-visual white paper and it is a legislative issue in terms of the amendment of section 60 (4) of the Electronic Communications Act. We would like this matter to be deferred to that process along with the TV licensing process,” said Philly Moilwa, SABC head of policy and regulatory affairs. 

The advertising revenue submission put forward arguments that advertising and sponsorship revenue should be capped for subscription broadcasters in order to foster financial sustainability of the free-to-air services. 

According to the SABC, the AAVCS Draft White Paper of 2020 proposes an inquiry into 1) whether the current share of advertising revenue by pay-TV services is appropriate and 2) the impact of online advertising on the broadcasting sector. 

“The SABC therefore supports the view that the Authority [Icasa] should urgently hold an inquiry into the review of the advertising regulations as proposed in the AAVS Draft White Paper,” said Moilwa. 

Other submissions

The struggling public broadcaster brought forward submissions meant to protect the free-to-air broadcast sector against the growing popularity of pay-TV. 

The first was that SABC believes there is a need for sector-specific regulations in the area of subscription broadcasting services, with a view to safeguard the sustainability and viability of public broadcasting services or free-to-air services. 

Secondly, the broadcaster called for Must-Carry Regulations to be repealed in order to level the playing field. Must-Carry Regulations allow MultiChoice and other pay-television operators to carry the SABC public service channels at no cost.

The SABC had called for these regulations to be amended in 2019, arguing that they are unfair and that commercial broadcasters have been exploiting the situation to their advantage and to its financial detriment.

Its third submission was that premium content should be defined and regulated to make premium content accessible to all.

SABC further submitted that contracts should be shortened, rights should be unbundled and split, and wholesale must-offer should be employed.

On shortening of exclusive contracts, the SABC called for Icasa to look into the risk of lengthy contracts concluded to circumvent the new regulations on subscription broadcasting. It added that studios should split the rights for access to content and pay-tv should compete for pay-tv rights with no impact to TV operators.

Day three of the hearings continues on Thursday, with presenting their submission to Icasa. On Friday, the submission by MultiChoice will be presented.

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