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South African regulator seeks to shake-up sports rights market

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has revealed details of its plan to make major sporting events available free-to-air in the country.

ICASA, which is the official regulator of the South African communications, broadcasting and postal services sectors, has detailed the effort in its Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations 2018.

Media group Multichoice, which owns South Africa’s dominant pay-television operator (DStv) and sports broadcaster (SuperSport), currently holds the majority of rights to major sporting events in the country.

However, as part of its draft regulations, the My Broadband website said ICASA has listed a number of major events that must be broadcast live by a free-to-air service. These include the summer Olympic Games; football’s Fifa World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations; the Rugby World Cup; Cricket World Cup and associated Twenty20 competitions; and the Commonwealth Games.

ICASA has stated that pay-television broadcasters can bid for the rights on a non-exclusive basis if a free-to-air partner cannot be found.

ICASA said the move is in line with the Electronic Communication Act which states that subscription broadcasting services may not acquire exclusive rights that prevent or hinder the free-to-air broadcasting of national sporting events.

The Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations are open for comment until February 4.