ICASA asks Competition Commission to investigate MultiChoice-SABC deal

South Africa’s communications industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has asked the Competition Commission to investigate a ‘possible restrictive horizontal practice’ between the public broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and pay-TV operator, MultiChoice in a July 2013 agreement between the two parties involving SABC’s 24-hour news channel on MultiChoice’s DStv platform.

“News reports at the time indicated that the agreement also contained an obligation relating to set-top box (STB) control in which the SABC is alleged to have agreed that it will transmit its FTA channels without encryption,” said ICASA in a statement. “In the context of the ongoing public dispute between e.tv and MultiChoice over whether FTA TV services should utilise STB control, the question arises as to whether the agreement between the SABC and MultiChoice may constitute a form of restrictive horizontal practice in the television market.”

According to reports, the controversial ZAR 553 million (USD 53.2 million) deal between SABC and MultiChoice was not approved by the public broadcaster’s board. SABC had planned to double its annual revenue to more than USD 1 billion within the next five years by entering into distribution partnerships with private sector companies.