South Africa’s media regulator ICASA is to hold a formal examination into the country’s ‘must carry’ rules. To date, they permit MultiChoice and other pay-TV operators to carry the nation’s SABC public channels without paying a fee. The rules have been in place since 2011.
SABC wants this pattern to be changed, and to force MultiChoice/DStv to pay fees for the SABC channels.
SABC says that the current regulations are unfair and that commercial broadcasters have been enjoying a significant commercial advantage to the detriment of SABC.
SABC is widely reported to be close to technical bankruptcy and has been lobbying for some time for a change in the ‘must carry’ rules, and is demanding that MultiChoice/DStv and StarTimes and other emerging pay-TV broadcasters pay for the public channels.
The SABC said these changes to the regulations are necessary, at the minimum because the Electronic Communications Act requires ICASA to “protect the integrity and viability of public broadcasting services”.
ICASA now seemingly agrees, and says the formal inquiry would: “Reach a comprehensive and accurate conclusion on the effectiveness of these regulations and consequently decide whether the current regulations require an amendment”.