We heartily welcome the judgement of the Competition Appeal Tribunal and its vindication of our public interest campaign for bringing to light the full and exact nature of the relationship between our national public broadcaster and its direct competitor, Multichoice Africa.
What this means, and you can find the complementary judgments attached, is that the Commission will have to use its extensive investigative powers to investigate the nature and impact of the agreement on the broadcasting sector, with a special focus on the subscription broadcasting market which has been de facto monopolised by Multichoice Africa.
When the Competition Tribunal ruled against us in the court a quo, it was clear to us that we had to appeal, in the public interest, to not only ensure that our national public broadcaster is not subsumed by its direct competitor which has grown in leaps and bounds off the back of the SABC’s viewers’ desire for greater content diversity, but to also start chipping away at media monopolies in the interests of establishing a framework that gives the people of South Africa a real shot at participating in the creation of, as well as benefiting directly from media diversity as envisioned in and promised by the Electronic Communications and Broadcasting Acts.
In addition to this, because when it rains it pours, ICASA has made the welcome announcement that it will also be launching an inquiry into the subscription broadcasting markets (see .doc attachment). Late as it comes, this is a significant step forward in the better regulation of these markets in the public interest, especially as we now approach a truly multichannel and multi-platform sound and audiovisual content (broadcasting) provisioning era. One of the key issues that ICASA must not shy away from investigating is the regulation of premium content acquisitions in order to clarify what is required to give entrant subscription and free-to-air broadcasters a fighting chance to participate in and compete fairly in the broadcasting landscape. Linked to this, we hope, is that ICASA will also include, in its findings report, recommendations for the robust regulation of the growing video-on-demand markets so that we can prevent the same kinds of de facto monopolies we saw established in the subscription broadcasting markets happen, once again, in online content service.