SA Rugby, PSL dig in their heels against Icasa

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Mark Alexander (Gallo Images)
Mark Alexander (Gallo Images)
  • SA Rugby, PSL agree on how Icasa’s remedies could impact them negatively.
  • Remedies include the limiting of broadcast contracts to three years.
  • Exclusivity of sporting events at heart of Icasa's debate.

SA Rugby and the Premier Soccer League were unremitting with regards to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) draft findings, saying that the body’s proposed remedies could lead to the financial demise of the sporting bodies.

SA Rugby said Icasa’s remedies, which narrowed on the limiting of exclusivity of content, the limiting of contracts to three years and the unbundling of rights are beyond the scope of the organisation (ultra vires) as the body does not have the authority to regulate the affairs of sporting bodies.

The rugby body argued that while Icasa can investigate certain conditions because of broadcasting conditions, certain issues, like the conduct of sporting bodies, is beyond their legal limits.

Icasa, established 21 years ago, is an independent regulatory body formed through the Icasa Act to look after the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors.

SA Rugby and the PSL fall under the administrative ambit of the Department of Sports, Arts and Recreation.

The sporting bodies have lucrative long-term broadcasting deals with SuperSport, which is owned by Multichoice.

The two entities and Icasa were engaged in a virtual public hearing with regards to the draft findings on the Subscription Television Broadcasting Services Inquiry.

“Icasa does not have the power to regulate the affairs of sporting bodies. Under the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) and the Icasa act, the body is only authorised to regulate licensees. Though the proposed license conditions purport to regulate the conduct of licensees, they in fact preclude certain conduct on the part of sports federations,” SA Rugby said.

“Even if Icasa considers the proposed remedies to be desirable, it does not have the powers under the ECA to regulate the conduct of sports federations as they are not licensees. The ECA’s scope does not permit Icasa to limit the rights of sports federations which are not licensees in the manner that it purports to.”

In their submission, the PSL said the remedies could have a devastating effect on the organization as their business lives or dies on broadcasting rights and exclusivity.

“Icasa has failed to demonstrate that it’s proposed remedies are addressing ineffective competition in a defined market. Icasa’s categorisation of the PSL’s content as “premium content” is not based on objective criteria,” the PSL said.

“Exclusivity lies at the value of our asset. You take that away and it’s a free for all and it becomes a scorched earth matter. Our asset stands or falls with exclusivity.”

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