Broadcasting National Sporting Events: Briefing By Minister; NOCSA on Current Activities

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Meeting report


15 May 2001

Chairperson: Ms. Bhengu (ANC)

Documents Distributed:
Minister's Briefing Document on Broadcast Communications Policy (see Appendix 1)
NOCSA Presentation
Racial Distribution Table: SA Olympic Teams, 1992-2000
NOCSA 1997-2000 Activity Report
S. African Olympic Foundation Brochure

Nocsa website:

The Minister briefed the Committee on the status of the emerging sport broadcasting communications policy. Officials of the National Olympic Committee of South Africa then briefed the Committee on its current activities.

Minister Balfour and NOCSA (the National Olympic Committee of South Africa) Chairman Sam Ramsamy noted that the Minister's briefing was in response to the committee's May 8 discussion on the development of broadcast communications policy.

The Minister then presented his briefing to the Committee, stated that implementing a policy by which sports of national interest can be made available for viewing by the general public is not an easy process, and that intemperate comments from some committee members, namely Messrs. Lee, Morkel, and Swart of the DA, do not help, adding a "friendly warning not to score political points" on this matter, and that it is preferable to work together toward a common goal.

The Chair stated that the Committee is charged with responsibility for the public interest, and that the process of addressing this issue had taken a long time, with no finality yet. In her view, the committee's approach thus far had been relaxed, but it must now act with a greater sense of urgency for the public benefit, as its performance is judged by legislative productivity, and the manner in which it deals with issues of concern. As such, allowing this matter to further languish without concrete action is a bad reflection on the committee's effectiveness, so the committee's actions are based in part on this consideration, and on the fact that it is, after all, responsible for legislating. To that end, schedule targets need to be set, and the Chair therefore requested that the Minister, Department of Sport, and broadcasters provide written indications of areas of current focus, specifying what needs to be done, by whom, and when such action is expected.

The Chair went on to remark that with this information, targets could be established and the committee program set so that the process of implementing the important policy articulated by the Minister could be facilitated. In this regard, she noted that the broadcasters had been invited to appear at the May 29 committee meeting, but that this needs to be revisited in light of the Minister's presentation, and the revised Parliamentary committee meeting schedule for this session, which allows such meetings only on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Mr. Lee (DA) took exception to the Minister's comment directed to him, as he stated that he had not previously made public comments on this matter. He then inquired generally as to public process ICASA must engage in dealing with this matter, and noted the financial constraints government had in dealing with these commercial issues.

The Minister responded by noting that the public participation component of the ICASA process is mandatory, and that while target dates should be set the legally required processes must be allowed to run their course. He also added that the respective Sport and Communications Portfolio Committees should work together in addressing these matters.

Mr. Frolick (UDM) then thanked the Minister for an "enlightening" presentation, and observed that there is an ongoing transformation process occurring within the various sporting federations, and that their goodwill is important in developing the communications policy, since they are the ones entering broadcast rights contracts with the media. He also suggested that, with the limited committee schedule for this session, the Department disseminate to committee members relevant information from its communications with the broadcasters.

Mr Ncinane (ANC) said that the DA is disorganized and not co-operating with the Minister's efforts to resolve these critical issues, the current situation being that the underprivileged masses, particularly in the rural areas, are deprived of seeing their sporting heroes. He also stated his support for Frolick's suggestion concerning Departmental provision of information on its ongoing discussions with the broadcasters.

In response, the Minister agreed to have such information provided, and concurred with the member's remarks that youngsters are being deprived of seeing their role models. However, he noted that the member's own Border rugby federation was among the first federations to sell its rights to broadcasters on a long term basis. He continued by observing that soccer federations had been a bit better about not entering such arrangements, but that at the end of the day federations' decisions are dictated by financial concerns, and that they must be persuaded not to be so money driven. He added that while government is a 3rd party to the federation/broadcaster dynamic, it is now a priority for it to be more involved in the process, though its participation is a very touchy role, and he also remarked that he was tired of being threatened with litigation over these issues by broadcasters.

Mr. Morkel (DA) then thanked the Minister for his input, which he had observed had seemed to have been a bit lacking in the past. Continuing, he observed that the distinction between "primary and secondary" broadcast rights is an important aspect to consideration of these matters, and suggested that the policy focus on a more specific definition of "secondary rights" such as expanded highlights packages.

Mr. Pieterse (ANC) added that the policy must be developed keeping in mind the role of women in sport, and noted that ICASA will be strapped financially due to the pending litigation with Cell C over the 3rd national cellphone license. He then asked how E-TV gets to use SABC facilities to broadcast soccer, while acknowledging that making the sport accessible is desirable regardless of who holds the rights.

Replying to this query, the Minister noted that budget factors are a reality, and that the SABC doesn't have the funds to broadcast all events. Consequently, it cooperates with E-TV, which had funds to allocate for broadcast of events which SABC elects not to carry. However, he believed that this could create problems when events such as the May 5 SA-Zimbabwe soccer match are carried by E, which had a weaker signal, which deprived many of access. As such, he believed it necessary to balance the collaborative process to facilitate greater access for the masses, and along these lines stated that he had suggested to the SABC that it ask ICASA for a "spare channel", for expanded sports coverage, which might even include school sports, which could attract great sponsorship interest.

Mr. Ntuli (ANC) then stated that the process timeframe could and should be dictated by the committee, remarking that "finality" by the end of this session was desirable.

Mr. Lucas (IFP) added that he believed the committee is on the right track, but suggested that it is necessary to involve the Finance Committee to assist in the process, not just with the direct financing but also with incentivization of the broadcasters by providing tax relief for facilitating access.

Mr. Chauke (ANC) then voiced his concurrence with Mr. Ntuli's comments, and suggested that the broadcasters be invited to appear at the committee's May 30 meeting.

The Minister then proposed that the committee form a sub-committee to work with Department officials and the broadcasters to establish, monitor, and drive the process, and liaise with other relevant committees.

The Chair then summed up by reiterating the importance of developing an appropriate policy. In this regard she observed that communities without adequate entertainment and recreation are more prone to criminal and high risk behaviour, leading possibly to the spread of HIV and teen pregnancy. She stated that sports federations and broadcasters have not been helpful or sensitive in facilitating youth involvement in sport to divert them from undesirable activities, and made a personal appeal, in keeping with her May 14 comments to the National Assembly concerning the impact of HIV on her family, to the federations and broadcasters for unity in the fight against HIV. She stated, in conclusion, "Let's put people above profits, and do the right thing for our young people," adding that these commercial concerns will have no future profits if there are no viewers due to the scourges of crime and disease.

Consideration of this matter was then ended for the day, without clear delineation of the committee's immediate path forward.

NOCSA Briefing
Mr. Ramsamy then made NOCSA's presentation to the committee, following the text which had been distributed to the committee members.

The discussion with NOCSA was not minuted nor was the presentation on the Department's budget.

Appendix 1:
Briefing Document For Minister Bmn Balfour
15 May 2001

Chairperson, Members
This briefing is informed by Clause 30 (7) of the Broadcasting Act, 1999; No 4 of 1999. The Clause reads as follows:
"Subscription broadcasting services may not acquire exclusive rights for the broadcast of national sporting events, as identified in the public interest from time to time by the Authority (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) in consultation with the Minister (of Communications) and the Minister of Sport and in
accordance with the regulations determined by the Authority through a public process

As members are aware, this process of determining national sporting events in the public interest, is a process that was started by my predecessor. However, these discussions predated the Broadcasting Act of 1999 and when I assumed office, I started talks with the three terrestrial television broadcasters - M-Net, SABC and e-tv.

A Series of meetings was held during last year with the broadcasters, as well as a meeting with the then IBA. An agreement was reached with the three broadcasters that they would submit proposed lists of national sporting events of public interest as well as an interpretation of "national sporting events of public interest"

All three broadcasters responded positively to this. Those lists are in the possession of my Department but the respective lists were also forwarded to all three broadcasters in order for them to study the views of each broadcaster.

I also consulted with the Minister of Communications who is charged with the administration of the Broadcasting Act. Meanwhile, the IBA was undergoing restructuring and in November 2000, the chairperson of ICASA advised me that as the communications regulator, ICASA would welcome any initiative that would bring the various players together.

However, by law, ICASA is still required to pursue Section 30(7) of the Broadcasting Act as it effects sports broadcasting. ICASA advised the Minister of Communications that they had a statutory requirement to undertake a public process with regard to this section of the Act.

At the time, ICASA was under severe budgetary constraints and did not have a separate budget for such an inquiry. ICASA assured me that they would continue the process once they have the necessary budget.

I advised ICASA that my Department would continue discussions with the broadcasters in order to establish common ground among them. I also had bilateral meetings with SABC as broadcaster with a view to understanding their strategy on the coverage of sport.

A meeting was also held with SARFU who accepted that there is a need for rugby on free to air television. They indicated they were talking to both SABC and e-tv. SABC currently covers some Vodacom Cup matches.

I also had a joint meeting in February this year with SABC, M-Net and the South African Football Association who requested me to unbundle Section 30(7) for them.

I indicated that we cannot move away from the Act and that it
would remain non-negotiable. Consensus would have to be found with the broadcasters on it.

SAFA and the SABC, with a new CEO, agreed to meet to discuss broadcasting of football. The CEO guarenteed there would be an improvement in technical production within 3-6 months. SAFA would also have met with SuperSport.

I agreed to meet with SAFA and the broadcasters again once
SAFA has its proposed meeting with SABC.

I have also been briefed about the coverage of the Cricket World Cup in 2003. The agreement reached, appears to be satisfactory to the broadcasters involved.

SARFU has requested a meeting with me to discuss future broadcasting of rugby. This meeting will take place soon.

Issues to note:
· Need to engage ICASA on their role.
· Need for consensus among broadcasters to avoid unnecessary possible conflict of interests.
· Federations entering into agreements with broadcasters.
· Federations desire to make huge financial gains from broadcasting.
· SABC - who often puts forward a case of financial constraints.
· Desire of broadcasters for exclusivity.
· Need to engage Communications portfolio committee.
· Continuous public outcry - letters to the Minister, complaints in the media, etc.

Way forward:
· Broadcasting of national sporting events is not a problem peculiar to our country. It similarly affects other countries.
· Staff of my department has started studying regulations affecting exclusive broadcasting in Britain and will also look at Australia.
· Discussions have started with broadcasters on their lists submitted.
· My Department is compiling a proposed list of national sporting events based on the information submitted by the broadcasters as a discussion document with the broadcasters.
· Further meetings with National Federations who have contracts with broadcasters.
· Clarity to be sought from ICASA on when process is likely to start.
Consultations with Minister of Communications.


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