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Hearings on Inquiry into Subscription TV on the Cards

November 9, 2020

Independent Communications Authority

Public hearings on the Draft Findings Document on the Inquiry into Subscription Television Broadcasting Services are on the cards.

The Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) announced the hearings in Government Gazette 43872.

The Discussion Document on the Inquiry into Subscription Television Broadcasting Services was published in 2017.

The Inquiry aims to determine whether there are competition issues in the sector and, if so, whether pro-competitive conditions need to be imposed on relevant licensees.

The Discussion Document sought comment on ICASA’s initial analysis of the sector and further information to help define the relevant markets and market segments, determine the level of competition, identify licensees with significant market power and propose pro-competitive conditions, if need be.

The responses to the document will assist ICASA in determining whether further steps were necessary.

The document dealt with introduction, scope and purpose of the inquiry, overview of the South African television broadcasting services sector, market definition, consideration of the effectiveness of competition in relevant markets, consideration of licensees with significant market power and possible pro-competitive licence conditions.

Public hearings were held in 2018.

A draft findings document was released in 2019 for comment.

Some of the findings include that over-the -top media services such as video-on-demand, while expanding, still have a muted impact given the level of internet access, the high cost of data and low average internet speeds; the current policy of non-encryption means that digital terrestrial television will have a minimal impact on satellite-based pay TV; the Must Carry Regulations are under review; not all content is substitutable and there is no single market for content; identified premium content to remain unchanged over market review period of three years; ineffective competition found in the retail distribution of pay TV and free-to-air satellite TV market, retail distribution of premium pay TV market and the wholesale purchasing of premium content market; MultiChoice possesses significant market power; limit the duration of exclusive contracts entered into by licensees with market power to three years; prohibit the automatic renewal of contracts by licensees with market power; introducing rights splitting, unbundling and wholesale must-offer; licensees with market power to only have agreements with half the Hollywood movie studios and introducing set-top box interoperability.

According to ICASA, 16 submissions were received and the plan is to hear all stakeholders that submitted written representations.

Hearings will be held in a hybrid model from 12-15 January 2021.

Meanwhile, in Notice 1174, the communications and digital technologies department published amended Films and Publications Tariffs Regulations in terms of the Films and Publications Act.

According to the notice, Section 1 of the amended regulations dealing with Physical Content and Distributor Size comes into effect on 1 February 2021 while Section 2 of the amended regulations dealing with Online Distribution comes into effect on 1 December 2020.