SABC-MultiChoice deal ‘not a merger’
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