MultiChoice might be forced to license premium content to competition

MultiChoice’s monopoly over sports rights and premium content is in government’s sights with Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim announcing that a discussion document on this issue will be released by the end of November.

Speaking during a panel discussion on the digital terrestrial television migration at the People To People International Documentary Conference in Johannesburg yesterday, Carrim also announced that the Competition Commission was “very keen” to look into this matter.

City Press reported in June this year that two complaints had been lodged with the commission.

One complaint was lodged by On Digital Media (ODM), the parent company of struggling, rival satellite broadcaster TopTV in November.

ODM argues in its complaint that SuperSport is refusing to give it access to an essential facility, is engaging in anticompetitive and exclusionary acts and is requiring or inducing a supplier or customer to not deal with them.

The other competition complaint was lodged by Louis Johannes van der Merwe, a member of the public, in April last year.

Both complained about MultiChoice subsidiary SuperSport’s monopoly on key sports rights like the Premier Soccer League (PSL), the English Premiership, the Springboks and Super Rugby matches and Proteas and local cricket tournaments.

Carrim said that the issue of premium content was very much on his desk at the moment.

The likely outcome of this policy process would be to force MultiChoice to license certain premium content to rival broadcasters.

The UK’s broadcasting regulator pursued a similar form of regulation with pay-tv operator Sky, forcing it to license certain football rights to rival broadcasters in a bid to boost competition in the sector.

At the conference yesterday, academic and broadcasting activist Kate Skinner said this was a key issue and urged Carrim to do something about it.

Academic and media specialist Indra De Lanerolle said that if the Competition Commission wanted to take on this job it should be allowed to do so as it was a very successful institution in South Africa.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2013/14 recently ranked South Africa eighth out of 148 countries for the effectiveness of its antimonopoly policy, which is a significant pat on the back for South Africa’s competition authorities.

Before President Jacob Zuma fired former communications minister Dina Pule, she announced that a policy directive would be issued to broadcasting regulator Icasa so that it could address competition in the broadcast sector by looking at market definitions for the wholesaling of premium content.

» City Press and DStv are both Naspers brands through Media24 and MultiChoice, respectively.

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