Comrades Marathon broadcast blackout threat

Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa during the 2018 GSports Awards at Wanderers Sports Club on August 31, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa during the 2018 GSports Awards at Wanderers Sports Club on August 31, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa has stepped into the contractual dispute between Athletics South Africa (ASA) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in an attempt to prevent a broadcast blackout of this year's Comrades Marathon in June.

Fears of a Comrades Marathon blackout escalated after discussions between ASA and the SABC failed to produce a breakthrough‚ leading to the Two Oceans Marathon not being shown on television at the weekend.

This led to Xasa issuing a warning to the two parties to seek common ground and avoid denying South Africans the opportunity to watch major events on television.

“We are convening a meeting with ASA and we will be talking about everything because these things also threaten their championships‚” she said.

“This is not good for them (ASA) and the SABC and therefore our intervention is because this situation impacts on the people of South Africa.

"That is where we enter to say where can we help to find common ground.

"The Two Oceans is listed among the events to be broadcast in terms of the SABC‚ so there was nothing that could be done because it was such short notice.”

Sports ministry director general Alec Moemi said a solution must be found urgently.

“They (ASA) will come to meet the minister about this issue to engage and see what could be the potential solution‚" Moemi said.

"You also have to look at third party contracts because you have a sponsor on the basis that there is going to be TV and suddenly there is no TV because you have a dispute with the broadcaster.

"You have Old Mutual and all of them...... there are going to be issues pertaining to what is contained in those contracts and things may be worse because there may be terminations.

“I had agreed to see the chief executive of ASA (on Tuesday) but we are running late because of the press conference (to announce Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Transformation in Sport report on the same day) to try and see what progress and compromises could be made.

"Equally this situation is unfair on the part of athletics because they would have normally gotten so much for this thing and SABC says we can’t broadcast the event.

"It is becoming apparent that SABC sport is under threat from all types of contracts.”

Xasa said they were caught by surprise by the SABC's failure to broadcast the Two Oceans Marathon and they only found out about it in the news.

“ASA did not even have the courtesy of informing us until we picked it up in the news and we had to call them‚" he said.

"We told them this is not just about whatever dispute they have with SABC‚ South Africans are affected and we had to step in.

"Unfortunately their president (Aleck Skhosana) was out of the country.

"There was an acting president (James Moloi) after the call he said he was going to consult with the chief executive (Richard Stander) and they would get back to me.

"I then asked the DG (Moemi) to call the chief executive of the federation so that we get the understanding and the explanation was not satisfactory on our part.

"At the same time we could not make a decision that begins to take their responsibility and that of SABC of making sure that they broadcast the race.”

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