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SABC turns to regulator in hope of clinching PSL deal

South African public broadcaster SABC has turned to the country’s compliance regulator in a bid to resolve its dispute with pay-television broadcaster SuperSport over rights to South Africa’s top-tier of domestic football.

SABC’s pursuit of a sub-licensing deal for some rights to the Premier Soccer League broke down over the weekend after it failed to meet SuperSport’s R56m ($3.8m)-per-season asking price. Acting SABC chief executive Craig Van Rooyen said the deal was not “commercially viable”.

South African media outlet The Citizen reported that SABC has now appealed to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to include the Premier Soccer League in its ongoing review of the country’s broadcasting legislation.

Icasa is currently engaged in a pair of inquiries into South Africa’s pay-television sports-rights market. It is reviewing both the effectiveness of competition in the market, as well as a proposal to overhaul the listed-events legislation. SABC hopes that changes to the latter will allow it, as national broadcaster, to show up to 144 PSL games per season. Critics of these inquiries say that they could cause rights values in South Africa to plummet if broadcasters’ exclusivity is diluted in any way.

SABC’s attempts to appeal to Icasa drew criticism from Joe Heshu, a spokesman for SuperSport parent company MultiChoice, who also said it was placing “[the PSL]’s future sustainability and the livelihoods of its players at severe risk” by offering as much as 96 per cent less than SuperSport was asking.