ICASA orders Competition Commission to investigate SABC, DStv deal

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has asked the Competition Commission to investigate possible uncompetitive practices by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and DStv provider MultiChoice.

ICASA said it asked the commission to investigate possible restrictive horizontal practices following an agreement concluded in July 2013 between the SABC and MultiChoice under which the SABC had to provide a 24-hour news channel on the MultiChoice platform.

With respect to the control system to be implemented on set-top-boxes in the forthcoming digital migration, the agreement allegedly also requires the SABC to provide its free-to-air services without encryption.

A restrictive horizontal practice sees organisations agree or collaborate to lessen competition in the market, effectively fix prices or other trading conditions, or divide the market through allocation of customers or territories.

The regulator said both parties have failed to comply with requests by ICASA to be provided with a copy of the agreement, and as such the regulator is unable to ascertain the nature of the agreement and whether it constitutes restrictive horizontal practice.

“Any contractual obligation upon the SABC to continue to transmit its free-to-air channels in the clear (i.e. without encryption) is an incident of the distribution arrangements agreed upon by the SABC and MultiChoice,” said MultiChoice.

“Such obligation, as indicated forms part of an agreement between parties in a vertical relationship and is not, as alleged, a horizontal restrictive practice.”

ICASA said the matter of restrictive horizontal practices falls under the scope of the Competition Act, and as such is properly dealt with by the Competition Commission.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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