SABC can’t pay to broadcast Rugby World Cup

2019-09-01 17:04

The SABC will not broadcast the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in Japan later this month.

SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu confirmed to City Press’ sister publication Rapport that the public broadcaster had not been able to reach an agreement to acquire the rights from SuperSport.

“The public broadcaster aims to broadcast all sporting events of national interest, as well as national teams in the various sporting codes, in the execution of its mandate,” said Mthembu.

“But the cost of these particular rights would not be commercially sustainable and there would not be a return on the investment for the organisation.”

However, Mthembu confirmed that the SABC was still in talks with SuperSport for the rights to broadcast the Rugby World Cup matches on radio. But she could not say how those talks were progressing.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20, when hosts Japan take on Russia. The Springboks’ opening match against New Zealand will be played the following day. The tournament ends on November 2.

The SABC announcement comes a week after the public broadcaster announced that it had finally reached an agreement with SuperSport to broadcast the PSL matches after a blackout of the first few matches of the season. The agreement is valid for five years.

Negotiations are, however, still ongoing with Safa over the broadcast of Bafana games.

Money is a major stumbling block for the cash-strapped SABC in fulfilling its mandate of broadcasting matches in which national teams play, which has meant that South African fans have missed out on the cricket, netball and rugby world cups.

Four days before the Cricket World Cup tournament in England in May, the SABC announced that it had reached an agreement with SuperSport to broadcast the Proteas matches live.

But a day after the Proteas lost against England in the opening match, it appeared that the public broadcaster had only acquired the rights for two matches. The only other match that was broadcast was the Proteas’ loss against Bangladesh.

The SABC has been unable to broadcast the Springboks’ away games on radio since last year, with only the home games being broadcast on radio live, and on SABC2 after the SuperSport broadcast.

Last year, when it appeared as if the SABC would not even be able to broadcast the Super Rugby or Currie Cup matches on radio, Mark Alexander, the president of the SA Rugby Union, intervened.

After a meeting that Alexander organised between SuperSport and the SABC, the latter agreed that RSG and seven other radion stations – including SAfm, Radio 2000 and Lesedi FM – could acquire the rights free of charge.

The SABC and Safa have also been at loggerheads since last year over the broadcasting of Bafana’s home games. Safa allegedly wants R110 million for the broadcast rights, while the SABC is only prepared to pay R10 million.

Before his resignation as director-general of the department of sport, art and culture in July, Alec Moemi said that, because of the SABC’s financial woes, it could not compete with SuperSport over the purchasing of broadcasting rights.

Moemi felt that the biggest stumbling block in the growth path of sports in South Africa was a bankrupt SABC. He said the fact that the SABC did not have a dedicated sports channel was also a big problem.

SuperSport has been reluctant to reveal results, but SA Rugby made R669 million from the sale of broadcast rights last year.

SuperSport broadcast more than 10 000 hours of rugby, compared with the SABC’s 43 hours.

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January 19 2020