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Icasa ‘remedies’ would set sport on road to ruin‚ says SA Rugby CEO Roux

South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.
South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux predicted the sport would be on the road to ruin should regulatory authority Icasa introduce their proposed ‘remedies’ in the way sports broadcast deals are concluded in this country.

Roux delivered the stark warning while making submissions in a virtual meeting on Thursday saying the “unintended consequences” of the remedies would make the professional component of the sport no longer viable in this country.

SA Rugby also asserted the regulatory authority had not done a proper economic impact assessment and argued that the remedies were unconstitutional.

Icasa (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) argued it had made an economic assessment impact.

While underlining what rugby did for social cohesion when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in 2019‚ Roux warned “we may never see a day like that again if the regulations are implemented”.

Some of the remedies are likely to have serious implications for the monopoly rugby’s long-time partner‚ Multichoice (SuperSport)‚ has on broadcast rights in the sport.

Icasa is determined to stimulate competitiveness in a market Multichoice has dominated for more than two decades.

SA Rugby listed concerns with the proposed remedies to be imposed on the licensee(s) that included: reducing the duration of contracts to a maximum of three years and requiring the content providers to ‘split’ their rights into multiple packages (rights splitting) and then sell these packages to more than one distributor to avoid a ‘winner takes all’ scenario.

Further concerns were requiring content providers to unbundle their rights to enable multiple parties to distribute the content across various platforms for example OTT‚ satellite and requiring a licensee(s) to offer any acquired rights to competitors.

Significantly‚ SA Rugby added‚ that it was “not aware of any jurisdiction that has implemented the above invasive remedies in relation to rugby” and that “the proposed remedies amount to an unlawful interference with SA Rugby’s discretion to package its broadcasting rights.”

It also reminded Icasa of its legal requirements. It suggested Icasa “must act within its powers and ensure that licence conditions are authorised by section 67 of the ECA [Electronic Communications Act] and that follows rational process”.

It said Icasa must remain in compliance with the country’s constitution and ensure that proposed remedies are justifiable under section 36 of the constitution‚ including as to their proportionality.

SA Rugby had previously argued these points to the regulator but felt Icasa “showed scant regard for the submissions they made in October 2019”.

In its submission eMedia Holdings – owner of e.tv and eNCA – said it supports the authority's inquiry into subscription broadcasting services but bemoaned the fact that it has not run its course after launching in 2016.

Icasa said that their white paper is a draft document and that amendments could still be introduced. Further submissions can be made over the next fortnight.