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MPs demand answers on SABC’s failure to broadcast PSL matches

The SABC in Auckland Park, Joburg. /Waldo Swiegers
SABC The SABC in Auckland Park, Joburg. /Waldo Swiegers

MPs want the SABC and the Premier Soccer League to explain why professional soccer matches were not aired on SABC radio earlier this month.

They also want to scrutinise the agreement reached between the two organisations that led to the resumption of the radio broadcasts.

The SABC announced on August 3 - the eve of the kick-off of the new PSL season - that it would not be able to broadcast the league's matches on radio as the two parties could not reach a consensus.

“This decision follows careful consideration to the SABC’s business operations and the unsuccessful negotiations with the PSL to secure the broadcast rights for soccer matches on radio‚” the SABC said in a statement at the time.

But three days later - following intervention by Sports and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa and Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane - the SABC's radio broadcasts of the PSL resumed.

In a statement‚ the department of communications said the PSL would commence a process with the SABC to finalise all pertinent issues relating to agreements governing the relationship between the two parties.

But MPs‚ fresh from their two-month winter break‚ are now demanding answers.

Humphrey Maxegwana‚ who chairs the National Assembly's communications portfolio‚ hinted that the SABC may have been in the wrong and that for at least a year‚ there was no broadcasting rights contract between the two organisations - only a verbal agreement.

Maxegwana revealed that he held an urgent meeting with the SABC board after the announcement was made. This was a different meeting to the one attended by Mokonyane and Xasa with the PSL.

“My observation in that process was the bad handling of the contract with the PSL by the SABC‚” he told his parliamentary colleagues on Tuesday.

“That contract or agreement ended in August 2017. It has been going as if there was an agreement and yet there was [only] a verbal agreement‚” he said‚ questioning whether or not it may have been deliberate.

“I attended the meeting last week. It was the first time I came across that agreement - and it is flawed‚” said Maxegwana‚ adding that there were “funny things that happened in that process [with] the dismissed general manager of sport.”

Maxegwana suggested that the parliamentary committee scrutinises contracts that the SABC has entered into with other entities. “We need to check what kind of agreements the SABC is involved in‚ [and] with whom. This will go for other entities [too] because a lot of money is involved in these‚” he said.

“We need to take interest in the agreements that the boards and councils get into. We need to understand what kind of agreements and how it was done.”

DA MP Phumzile van Damme agreed‚ although she seemed more concerned about the role played by Mokonyane and Xasa in brokering the new deal.

Van Damme said while it was “of paramount importance” for South Africans to have access to radio broadcasts of PSL and Bafana games‚ it was just as important to follow proper procedures.

“What I don't understand is how the ministers were involved in what was essentially an issue between the PSL and the SABC. I think it constitutes political interference and overstepping of their mandate‚” she said.

“We must of course fight for sport broadcasting rights‚ but the processes must be followed correctly.”

Van Damme called for a meeting in which the contract between the two parties could be presented to the committee‚ and for full details of what was discussed and how the impasse was resolved to be aired. The committee agreed to her proposal.

“I don't understand how the SABC is broke but now after a meeting can suddenly afford PSL sports rights‚” said van Damme. “There are a lot of grey areas that I think need to be filled in‚ including what the agreement was between the ministers and the PSL.”

She suspected “some sort of buttering”‚ because the SABC simply doesn't have money to buy the rights.

The PSL may also be called in to give its side of the story‚ although its appearance will depend on the availability of the sports portfolio committee‚ to which sporting bodies account.

Maxegwana was assigned to meet with his sports counterpart‚ Beauty Dlulane‚ to ensure a joint meeting of the two committees. Failing this‚ only the SABC and Mokonyane will be called to account to the communications oversight committee.

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