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SABC seeks changes to enable retransmission fees

South African public broadcaster SABC has called on the country’s media regulator ICASA to conduct an urgent review of must-carry obligations in a bid to secure retransmission fees for its channels.

The broadcaster has called on ICASA to revie regualtions that allow Multichoice and other subscription broadcasters to carry SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 for free.

The rules date from 2008 and stipulate that pay TV broadcasters offering over 30 channels must carry SABC’s three free-to-air channels.

Bongumasa Makhathini

Bongumasa Makhathini

The SABC is currently reviewing all contracts and rule sthat it says negatively impact on the financial sustainability of the organization.

In a letter addressed to ICASA chair Paris Mashile, SABC chairman Bongumasa Makhathini said that the current rules have had “a serious impact” on the broadcaster’s finances.

He said that “the regulations seemed to be drafted on the basis that the “must carry obligation” was an onerous one for subscription broadcasters and that these broadcasters would be ‘doing the public broadcaster a favour’ by carrying its channels as part of a subscription television bouquet” and argued that SABC’s channels had in fact benefited MultiChoice at the expense of the pubcaster.

Makhathini said that the 2008 regulations were contrary to the requirement placed on ICASA by the 2006 Electronic Communications Act to “protect the integrity and viability of public broadcasting services”.