Is a complete blackout better than a delayed broadcast? Barely a week after CEO Lulama Mokhobo pledged that it was the obligation of the SABC to televise matches involving national teams, the national broadcaster announced Wednesday that it wouldn’t be televising the rugby test match between South Africa and England on the weekend. That was totally at odds with what she said last week when her corporation formalised a three-year deal with French-based company SportFive to televise all Bafana Bafana’s competitive away matches played on the continent.
After signing the R28 million deal, she had said: “This agreement shows that broadcasting matches of our national teams is not just our mandate as a public broadcaster, but our ethos." But if that’s the SABC ethos, why are rugby fans having a blackout this weekend? Well, the broadcaster implied it got tired of feeding scraps to its viewers… While those weren't their exact words, they were more along the lines that they’d rather not televise Springbok matches at all if rights owners, SuperSport, were only offering delayed content for SABC viewers.
While the stance the SABC is taking sounds noble and commendable, has it considered the interests of its viewers? Some people would rather watch delayed content than being subjected to a complete blackout and I'm one of those. Some years back when I couldn't afford cable TV, I'd look forward to watching delayed races of Formula One even when I already knew who'd won the race. That was better than nothing.
Back to rugby… Apparently, SuperSport may only sell television rights to the SABC on condition that the state broadcaster doesn’t do live broadcasts. Despite having had a five-year deal with SuperSport that expired in 2010, the SABC has since been buying rights on a per match basis from SuperSport. SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the organisation couldn’t reach a favourable agreement when it held talks with SuperSport.
The state broadcaster’s acting Chief Operations Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng said: “The SABC has decided, as a principle, that for the events that it has rights to [such as Bafana Bafana] it will broadcast on a live basis.” Well, I love the principle but my problem is that the blackout will mainly affect those who don't hold DStv accounts and I wonder if they'd be happier listening to the rugby game on radio than watching the delayed game on TV.