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Watchdog opens sports to all viewers

World Brief

JOHANNESBURG — Pan-African paybox M-Net will no longer be able to buy exclusive broadcasting rights to major sports events featuring South African teams.

TV watchdog the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is protecting certain events to make sure terrestrial viewers get the chance to see them.

M-Net uses sports to attract subscribers and pays handsomely for the rights, cutting out terrestrial rivals as well as the majority of South Africans who can’t afford pay TV.

The new regulations stipulate that the “onus is on subscription broadcasters to sublicense (broadcasting) rights to listed national sporting events to free-to-air broadcasters.” However, free-to-air channels can acquire rights to broadcast exclusively.

Imtiaz Patel, director of enterprises and production at M-Net’s SuperSport channel, maintains that regulations are not the way to go. “We believe that it should be a matter of negotiation among broadcasters,” he says.

Viewers will reap the benefit of the new policy in October when the Rugby World Cup will be broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corp. for the first time since 1995. The pubcaster has bought the rights to the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups for an undisclosed price.