Pay-TV operator MultiChoice has urged the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to be aware of market realities brought about by streaming and over-the-top (OTT) players in its inquiry into broadcasting signal distribution services.
The pay-TV operator made the remarks in its submission to the telecoms regulator’s discussion document on signal distribution services under section 4(6) of the Electronic Communications Act (ECA), 2005.
The submissions follow the publication of the notice of intention to conduct a market inquiry into signal distribution services in South Africa by the authority on 17 September 2021.
On 22 April 2022, the regulator published a discussion document on the Market Inquiry into Signal Distribution Services in South Africa.
According to Icasa, the inquiry aims to assess the state of competition in the signal distribution market and determine whether markets or market segments within the signal distribution services value chain may warrant regulatory intervention in section 67(4) of the ECA.
The regulator stated that signal distribution is a vital electronic communications network service that transports radio and television programmes created by broadcasting licensees to the actual broadcast target area, allowing listeners and viewers to hear or watch those programmes on radio or television.
Councillor Yolisa Kedama said, “The hearings are an important step in the market inquiry process. As highlighted by some stakeholders, this process will help the authority better understand the competitive dynamics and challenges in the signal distribution services markets.”
By 29 June, the regulator received submissions from eMedia, MultiChoice, Primedia, Radio Pulpit, SABC and Sentech.
MultiChoice further added, “ICASA refers to streaming services as alternative technology platforms and concludes that streaming services are not considered as signal distribution services.
The pay-TV operator explained that streaming/OTT services are retail services supplied to end consumers in competition with retail services of traditional broadcasters.
General manager of technical regulatory at MultiChoice, Thabo Makenete, said, “We agree that these streaming/OTT services are not signal distribution, but it is important to note that they are delivered to consumers via the internet, which is the delivery mechanism.”
The regulator has indicated that virtual public hearings of the discussion document will be held on 19 August.