Boxing SA & SABC progress reports on boxing broadcasts and former World Title Champions

Sports, Arts and Culture

21 August 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Boxing South Africa (BSA)and the SABC briefed the Committee on the progress made to try to develop boxing in South Africa, primarily through promotion of the broadcasting of fights on television. The Chairperson of BSA emphasised that he was determined that BSA account correctly for every cent of money received and urged Parliament to hold the institution strictly to account. It was high time for boxing to take its place in the public eye, but it was fully recognised that in order to attract sponsorship, BSA must promote an excellent brand built on good boxers and tournaments. BSA and SABC had prepared a Memorandum of Understanding, although it was not yet signed, setting out that both should approach potential sponsors in an attempt to ensure that there was wide broadcasting on both public and private channels. The boxers must be financial compensated, and it was noted that although at the moment fights tended to be concentrated in Eastern Cape and Gauteng, there were in fact good boxers in every province, who should be promoted also as champions of their own provinces. BSA confirmed, in answer to a question, that promoters needed to work more closely with each other, and the quality of fights would be monitored. There was an emphasis on women’s fights as well.

SABC outlined the background to sports broadcasting in South Africa, but noted that SABC faced constraints in that, as the public broadcaster, it had the mandate to broadcast sports of national interest, although they may not necessarily attract the largest sponsorship or viewership, and SABC was required to compete on equal commercial terms with all broadcasters in the market, facing additional cost liabilities. 75% of income came from advertisers and sponsors, but this had fallen substantially in consequence of the economic downturn, which meant that SABC was having to cut back on achievement of its mandate. The planned ban on alcohol advertising would worsen the position. The SABC appealed to the Committee to support it in a call for regulations around broadcasting and allocations specifically for certain sports.

Members enquired if there was now better coordination between amateur and professional bodies, questioned the progress in having the MOU signed and emphasised the  need to start producing quality boxers in South Africa. They questioned the time slots currently, and were told by SABC that there was a problem with scheduling, although SABC was not saying that this was insurmountable. They urged BSA to follow up its initiatives with SuperSport in writing. SABC suggested, and BSA agreed, that radio was an equally important medium. The Chairperson commented that communication issues in general had to be discussed and said that indigenous sports needed  consideration also. Whilst sport attracted big money, its social and entertainment aspects must also be borne in mind. A DA member was not entirely in agreement with the SABC’s call that more funding was needed, saying that its image needed improvement, and asked how exactly it was proposed that new regulation would assist in meeting the mandate. Members commented briefly on the proposed advertising bans, noted that sponsorship was the route to follow, and agreed that SABC was critical to the development of sport.

Meeting report

 

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that President Zuma had declared a week of mourning for the Marikana mining massacre, and asked Members to stand and observe a moment of silence for the victims.

Boxing SA progress report on promotion of boxing
Mr Ngconde Balfour, Chairperson, Boxing South Africa, said that he was fully in support of institutions such as Boxing South Africa (BSA) accounting to Parliament for every cent that was spent. He confirmed that much work had to be done to “get boxing off the canvas” and to ensure that this sport took its rightful place in South Africa’s public eye.

BSA had held a number of discussions with other organisations, to reach this goal. Firstly, he noted that the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer had been told that it was necessary to pursue the broadcasting of boxing, and it was necessary also to ensure that there was a strong board behind BSA. The legal advisors for BSA had been asked to draft the necessary Memorandum of Understanding to ensure a good working partnership between BSA and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to institutionalise the broadcasting of the sport. Both parties would then approach potential sponsors, bearing in mind the necessity to develop some means through which the sponsors could be seen. The SABC, SuperSport, EBTV and Boxing SA must all work together.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was presently with the SABC for its comment. The Acting Chief Executive Officer of BSA had called for a meeting to re-state the principles of the approach to boxing, and to try to urge the MOU forward.

Mr Balfour noted that the approach that had been taken with SABC had not been the same as that with Super Sport, as BSA wanted to ensure that it achieved general broadcasting of boxing on TV to all of the population. BSA was still intending to meet with EBTV.

BSA was not primarily concerned with the arrangements from the sponsors’ point of view, but did want to ensure that the boxers themselves benefited from a good deal. It was questioned whether the boxing matches and exposure were evenly dispersed throughout the country, and BSA wanted to see that boxers were promoted in a just manner, rather than focusing on a select few only. He distinguished between the promotional rights given by the boxers, and the broadcasting rights, and emphasised again that BSA wanted to see broadcasting as widely spread as possible.

When SuperSport had met with BSA it had been emphasised that there was a need, in order to build boxing and let the sport flourish, to have quality boxers and tournaments, and to build a lasting and quality brand, supported by as wide coverage as possible. If more companies wanted to broadcast boxing, so much the better, as long as this was done in a way that would benefit the boxers and the country. The product of boxing must be well-branded, to inspire pride.

SABC briefing on Sport in South Africa
Mr Sizwe Nzimande, Head of Sports, SABC, gave a presentation on sport in South Africa, and said that there had been some innovative moves around broadcasting of boxing, initiated and taken forward by the Chairperson and Acting Chief Executive Officer of BSA. He gave a background to sports and broadcasting in South Africa (see attached presentation for full details) and outlined some of the key challenges. He noted that the current legislation and licensing by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Sports and Events of National Interest discussions did not offer the SABC any protection against the free market, since the SABC was merely required to compete on equal commercial terms with all broadcasters in the market. This was despite the SABC’s additional responsibility of being the national broadcaster, meaning that it had to broadcast not only the sports that attracted most interest and were therefore more profitable, but also the sports that had a key focus in the country. This added an extra cost liability that was not faced by the private broadcasters. Furthermore, the SABC was not funded in the same way as public broadcasters in other countries, such as the UK and Australia. Every public service that the SABC performed had to be paid for by money that the SABC raised from the private sector. 75% of the income that the SABC generated came from advertisers and sponsors, and the economic downturn in the past five years had resulted in advertisers and sponsors reducing their spend with the SABC, sometimes by as much as half. This had in turn led to the SABC not being able to meet as much of its public mandate as it had done in the past. The fact that sports rights had increased, whilst the SABC income had decreased, caused major cash shortfalls in SABC. The planned ban on alcohol advertising would worsen the position.

Discussion
Mr G Mackenzie (COPE) said that it had been reported that there was going to be a fight in Durban between White Buffalo and Sunny Bill Williams. He wanted to know if this would be broadcast.

Mr Balfour responded that a female boxing match had been arranged for 23 September. He said that the White Buffalo and Sunny Bill Williams fight had not yet come to the sanctions committee. 

Mr Mackenzie said that one of the main concerns in the Committee was that there had not been coordination between the amateur and professional bodies, and he wanted to know if this had now improved.

Mr Mackenzie enquired if the MOU had any mention of sponsorship, and he questioned whether there had been any progress on getting that document signed, noting that lack of signature meant that progress was being delayed.

Mr T Lee (DA) also asked when the MOU would be finalised.

Mr Lee said that there was a need to start producing quality boxers in South Africa, and quoted the saying “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan”. One of the first steps was that BSA must concentrate on producing quality boxers, and then SABC would have no choice but to sponsor them and broadcast the fights. He also questioned the time slots, saying that any agreement with SABC must specify times. It was imperative that boxers be able to earn a decent living, so there had to be good movement forward on these issues.

Mr Balfour agreed that a strong link had to be formed between amateur and professional boxers and this would help in producing what Lee has called quality boxers.  “Joey” (sic) had been one of the best boxers, pound per pound in South Africa, but had not been promoted properly. Boxing South Africa had a role to play in marketing these boxers. The promoting should also be conducted in the boxers’ own regions so they could be considered as champions for their regions.

In relation to the time slots, Mr Balfour commented that BSA had been looking at both Saturday and Sunday slots.

Ms G Sindane (ANC) touched on the turnaround strategy and said that whilst the initiative of the Chairperson in meeting with Super Sport was commendable, there was also a need to follow up in writing on this.

Mr Balfour noted that SuperSport had already commented on the quality of boxers and BSA had confirmed that it would provide good boxers and quality tournaments.

Mr J McGluwa (ID) said that no timeframe was set out in the presentation. He wondered if there were any MOUs between the Departments of Sport (SRSA) and Education. He noted that for some time there were concerns about boxers’ rights and asked why these rights were not yet protected.

Mr Mandla Ntlanganiso, Board Member, Boxing South Africa, said that the turnaround strategy had resulted in the books of BSA being corrected. He commented, in general, that in the past there had been no way in which boxers would obtain sponsorship without their fights being broadcasted.  There had been issues internally in BSA, and that had been sorted out, but sponsorship was still needed.  BSA had reviewed all of its boxers and their ratings, and determined who were the quality boxers, in order to ensure that the product was “saleable”. At the moment, he commented that boxing was concentrated in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, although there was a lot of quality in other provinces. If boxing was going to be more widely spread, quality tournaments would be seen in Cape Town or Limpopo, and he added that already quality sportsmen had been seen coming from Khayelitsha. He  noted that the only entry to boxing in South Africa was BSA, and that encompassed the sanctioning bodies. 

Mr Balfour added that part of the problem was that to date, the promoters had not worked with one another.  When the initial legislation was repealed, it was assumed that better working relationships would result. He commented that this was a business, and money was a prime consideration. A full meeting with promoters was to be held on 8 September, to discuss promotional and broadcasting rights. After that, a joint committee would be set up, between SABC and BSA, to look at the quality of fights.  BSA had specifically insisted that there would be two fights for every women for every tournament.

Mr Hlaudi Mtsoeneng, Acting Chief Operations Officer, SABC, added that the majority of people in the country, judging from the letters that SABC had received, including those from promoters, wanted to watch boxing, and he emphasised that one body was needed. It was vital for BSA to work closely with the promoters. SABC had, as mentioned, met with BSA, and the team was asked to finalise matters in two weeks time. SABC was ready to start, but the main challenge behind moving the boxing programming to another day was tied in with scheduling, as there had been existing programmes in these time slots. SABC was not saying that it was not possible to move from Friday to Sunday but wanted to mention the challenge. He noted that in South Africa, radio remained a more powerful medium because it could reach everyone in the country, so both radio and television should be targeted. 

Mr Mtsoeneng asked that Parliament help the SABC on the issue of regulations, noting again the concerns that although SABC was the main public broadcaster, it did not get sufficient budget, and he urged that sports of national interest should be covered and this should be specifically stated in regulations. SABC reached  more people than other broadcasters, and he urged Parliament to help it move forward even more.

The Chairperson thought that a meeting should be called to discuss communication issues. Sport had become a big business, yet other big businesses who did not make a profit usually closed. It must be remembered that sport also had a social and entertainment aspect. He noted that indigenous sports were another area that needed consideration.

Ms Sindane said time was needed to go through SABC’s challenges. She commended the mention of indigenous games. Finally, she commented that SABC should be commended on its work in broadcasting the London 2012 Olympics.

Mr Lee responded that the problem with SABC had been one of its image. Responding to the plea of Mr Mtsoeneng, he said that if more money was allocated, then Parliament would have to question what was done with that money. SABC was governed by legislation, that set out its mandate, and he questioned how exactly it was proposed that other legislation be amended or created, and where the problem with the mandate lay. He was asking this question because of his personal concerns, not because he was authorised to do so by his party.

Mr Lee commented that if alcohol advertising was banned a large section of potential revenue would disappear, as it had with the banning of tobacco advertising, and he commented that in his personal opinion it was not correct that a person seeing alcohol or tobacco advertising would necessarily drink or smoke.

Mr MacKenzie said that surely the SABC was already aware of how the banning of alcohol advertising would affect it, and wondered if SABC would lobby government not to impose this ban. There could be huge ramifications if former sponsors of boxing fell away. If a decision was taken to follow the Australian broadcasting model, taxpayer funds would be part of the equation.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) said that there was not sufficient taxpayer funding, and sponsorship was the route to follow.

Ms M Dube (ANC) made the point that sports have been used as a means to promote healthy people, and she was fully in support of the proposed bans. This whole issue had been debated during the tobacco advertising banning.

The Chairperson responded that the points raised around sponsorship were valid. Many sporting organisations had come before the Committee, and it was important to have good governance with sponsorship. The law making process in South Africa was publicly accessible and citizens wanting to comment had been welcomed.

Mr Mtsoeneng responded that SABC supported the nation’s good health. SABC had not discussed the issue of sponsorship and did not want to do so now, as that was a decision that the MPs must make. He believed that the image of SABC was improving, and it had done some things exceptionally well. He reiterated that SABC was seeking support from Parliament in the making of regulations and the broadcasting of sports of national interest. SABC also needed to work with other commercial broadcasters, and its relationship with them, such as SuperSport, was good. However, it must be remembered that not everyone had the funding to be able to watch private broadcast sports and it was only be incorporating the need to broadcast national interest sports in regulation that SABC would be able to compete with other companies and offer coverage to the average South African. He reiterated that SABC was doing quite well financially, relying more on commissions, and was attempting to ensure that its mandate was fulfilled.

The Chairperson responded that there should be order in sport in South Africa, and agreed that SABC had been critical to the development of sport.

Mr Balfour responded that, after listening to SABC, and noting its support, he was proud to lead Boxing SA. He hoped that BSA would be able to comply within good time, provide timeframes and get the MOU finalised and signed.

Mr Balfour noted the comment that radio was more accessible, and said that he himself listened more to the radio than watching TV and often did so, for instance, whilst working in the field. He urged that there should be a joint approach to the major sponsors, by BSA, SABC and Super Sport. No company would offer sponsorship unless it was convinced that good governance was in place.  BSA must make sure that there was good governance, and he reiterated that it was keen to open the books and show that all money was properly handled, and looked to this Committee also to monitor this.

The Chairperson thanked BSA and SABC and promised to keep in contact.

Mr Lee proposed that the Committee make a statement to the Paralympic Team.

This was approved by other Members.

The meeting was adjourned.

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