SAFTU condemns blackout of local soccer by public broadcaster

An SABC cameraman (Gallo)
An SABC cameraman (Gallo)

Cape Town - The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) has expressed its dismay that Absa Premiership soccer matches were not broadcast on the SABC last weekend.

In a press release issued on Monday, SAFTU claimed that the "capitalist greed, neo-liberal and austerity programmes" combined to deny ordinary South Africans from watching the country's number one sport.

SAFTU noted that only 6.1 million South Africans have DStv dishes and many of the working class cannot afford the full subscription which includes all the sport channels.

The full press release reads as follows:

"South African government is wholly committed to neo-liberalism and austerity and is only providing 3% of the public broadcaster budget to carry its public mandate. The broadcasting of sport is not a funded mandate. As a result of SABC now relies on advertising from private firms, which makes 84% of its budget, to carry out its public mandate. The TV licences only cover 15% of the budget.

"SAFTU believes the government is to blame for the failure of the SABC to carry out its mandate. We condemn the government in the strongest terms possible. The government must shoulder the blame for the blackout of soccer on the public broadcaster over the weekend and going forward.

"During the era of absolute madness which in South Africa is popularly known as state capture, the then SABC COO Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng signed an agreement with MultiChoice that handed over the rights of the PSL games from the public broadcaster to the private company, MultiChoice, for the period between 2012/13 to 2016/17 for R1.280 billion. This meant the SABC was to pay R240 million for 144 matches per year. According to the SABC, they received only R55 million per year in revenue in return.

"MultiChoice is now expecting the SABC pay R280 million per year for the same 144 PSL games over the next five years. This is a massive 17% increase! SABC is reported to have offered R72 million per year over the 5 years. SABC states that even with this offer, it stands to lose R14 million per year totalling to a loss of R1.4 billion in the next 5 years.

"From these figures, it was absolutely criminal to sign the deal between SABC and MultiChoice. SAFTU demands that the whole deal be scrapped and that the rights returned to the SABC. Soccer is the number one sport and cannot be commercialised to the point that the masses of the people are left hanging dry.

"There is also a larger problem that we wish to bring to the fore. We are going through a bad spell when it comes to soccer talent. The soccer standards have been going down since we won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 1996. We see no development that has brought young and exciting talent capable of drawing the masses of the people back to the stadiums. The days of Jomo Sono, Ace Ntsoelengoe, Lucas Radebe, Phil Masinga, Doctor Khumalo, Shoes Mosheou, seem to have passed. Gone are the days when we had the likes of Fani Madida scoring 34 goals in one season. For seven seasons in a row, we have the top goal scorer scoring 12 goals a season.

"There are today only 1.5 million average TV viewers for a PSL match with only 5 million watching the derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. There are only 2 million viewers for the Bafana Bafana games.  

"As a result of this, the private companies are not willing to pour money in advertising on the games very few people watch on television. Advertisers do not want to put money in sport codes that have very few numbers attending.

"The country is finding itself in a chicken and an egg situation. SAFA and PSL argue that they cannot showcase the South African talent when they are not receiving TV rights from the public broadcaster. The Public Broadcaster cannot afford to broadcast matches in the context of declining revenue as a result of government austerity measures. Private firms will not spend money on games not attended and watched by the masses that they target to buy their products.

"More dangerously, the SABC is now broadcasting English football games! A whole generation will grow up appreciating foreign standards and not local talents.

"This combined with an unfunded mandate would mean that the public broadcaster is completely commercialised as the private firms dictate what should be the content of the public broadcaster - "the one who pays the piper calls the tune".

"However, capitalist ethos is based on the opposite of the ethos that a fully funded public broadcaster should be advocating. The entrenchment of the "me first to hell with everyone else" is what will eventually lead to a society based on the survival of the fittest instead of solidarity and Ubuntu.

"SAFA and the PSL must share the blame for the falling of the football standards. A government that keeps on promising to promote high school sport but doing nothing must also take the blame. Without the active school's sport, there is no feeder to the professional sporting codes. Faced with all this we have a Minister of Communication is quoted as telling the country 'there is nothing I can do' which is the answer epitomising the country’s crisis."

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