SABC-Mul­ti­Choice deal ‘not a merger’

CityPress - - Business -

The Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal this week dis­missed an ap­pli­ca­tion that it treat a con­tentious deal be­tween the SABC and Mul­ti­Choice as though it were a “merger”, and there­fore sub­ject to com­pe­ti­tion law.

The 2013 deal saw the SABC give Mul­ti­Choice ac­cess to its ar­chives to cre­ate a re­run chan­nel called En­core.

In the con­tract, the SABC prom­ises to sup­port the non-en­cryp­tion of dig­i­tal ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion when South Africa fi­nally switches from ana­logue TV to dig­i­tal broad­casts.

Com­peti­tor Cax­ton and two non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, the Save our SABC Coali­tion and Me­dia Mon­i­tor­ing Africa, claimed that the SABC was sell­ing na­tional her­itage – and ex­clud­ing other com­pa­nies from us­ing it.

They also ar­gued that the deal amounted to a “bribe” for the SABC to take the same po­si­tion as Mul­ti­Choice on whether dig­i­tal ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion should be en­crypted.

Mul­ti­Choice, and now the SABC, want it un­en­crypted – which would ar­guably make it harder for a com­peti­tor to emerge with a pay TV model.

The tri­bunal dis­missed the ar­gu­ment that this al­leged con­trol over SABC pol­icy and the valu­able na­tional re­source of au­dio­vi­sual ar­chives could be con­sid­ered to be a form of merger.

With­out mak­ing find­ings about the facts, the tri­bunal noted that “the fact that a trans­ac­tion may have an­ti­com­pet­i­tive con­se­quences does not by virtue of that alone trans­form it into a po­ten­tial merger”.

– De­wald van Rens­burg

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