19 June 2019
Pretoria – The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) will soon be conducting an Inquiry into Must-Carry Regulations so as to reach a comprehensive and accurate conclusion on the effectiveness of these regulations and consequently decide whether the current Regulations require an amendment.
These are the findings of the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) process which commenced in September 2018 following a number of complaints from the PBS Licensee, resulting in the need for ICASA to consider the effects of the Regulations and further consider the need for their review.
The bone of contention resulted from the provision of the regulations that states that “a Subscription Broadcasting Service (SBS) Licensee is required to carry the television programmes of a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Licensee at no cost to the SBS Licensee”. ICASA therefore began a consultative process that included issuing questionnaires directed to the PBS licensee, SBS licensees, other broadcast service licensees as well as the general public to solicit information that would assist in determining the effectiveness of the regulations.
The RIA report emphasized ICASA’s initial position in the regulations that the PBS licensee would deliver the signal to the SBS at its own cost (the cost of producing their content in a readable format to the SBS licensee); and the SBS licensees would incur the cost of broadcasting i.e. transmission costs, which include (amongst others) fibre contribution costs and satellite capacity costs. It was on this premise that the different wording of “at no cost” in the Regulations came about in an effort by the Authority to be non-discriminatory and fair and to ensure that universal access was prioritised over financial gain.
Although ICASA cannot make a conclusive finding at this stage on whether the resultant implementation of the Regulations on costs carried by the PBS and SBS licensees warrant that the Regulations be amended, there is therefore a need for further consultation and to conduct an Inquiry into the effectiveness of the regulations and possible review thereof.
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