The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has handed over a letter to the Competition Commission and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) over alleged unfair pricing from the broadcast signal distributor, Sentech.
The SABC Chief Operating Officer, Ian Plaatjes, wrote a letter to ICASA asking the regulator to intervene. In the letter, the COO asked the ICASA to probe into Sentech’s broadcasting carriage fees as this would, in future, impact SABC’s mandate to provide radio and television services throughout South Africa. Additionally, Plaatjes also wrote to the Competition Commission of South Africa, asking them to investigate Sentech’s conduct formally.
The SABC has been working on finding various ways to negotiate with Sentech since October last year. The quest was taken to the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications. SABC told the committee that they could not afford the broadcast signal distribution fees and asked that the parliament intervenes with Sentech to cut the prices by 50% or by R500 million (US$36.3 million).
SABC’s COO also told the portfolio committee that government-to-government business should not be overpriced, especially considering alternative providers in the private sector. Plaatjes highlighted that Sentech fees are the second-largest expenditure after salaries at the public broadcaster.
The fees are not sustainable, added the COO. SABC has spent over R3.2 billion (US$232.4 million) in the past five years on Sentech fees, and these are outside of fair-value tariffs, said Plaatjes. When approached by BMA media sources for a comment regarding the letter and allegations, Sentech responded by saying they would like to respect their relationship with the SABC; therefore, they are not at liberty to comment as they were not the recipients of the letters.
ICASA and the Competition Commission were also asked for a comment. They are yet still to respond.