eMedia Investments, eTV parent company, has accused the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) of allowing the state-owned broadcasting signal distributor (Sentech) to abuse its monopoly to the detriment of broadcasters for decades.
E.tv and eMedia executives launched a blistering attack on Icasa and Sentech during an Icasa public hearing on signal distribution. The broadcaster criticised Icasa for failing for more than 12 years to deal with a situation that they argued had allowed Sentech to get away with charging “rip-off” prices to distribute the broadcasters’ content to South African viewers over its terrestrial network.
At the hearing, eMedia Investment CEO Khalik Sherrif said, “Sentech’s absurd submission that [Icasa’s] discussion document should be withdrawn (made in written submissions ahead of Friday’s hearing) would enable it to continue acting anti-competitively and must be rejected.”
The broadcaster’s External legal adviser Dan Rosengarten went as far as to accuse Icasa of “aiding and abetting” Sentech and alleging that the signal distributor failed to live up to promises it made at Icasa hearings more than a decade ago to deal transparently with broadcasters.
Sherrif accused Icasa of “favouring monopolies” in the sector over free-to-air broadcasters and indicated that the regulator failed, in 2011, when it last investigated the market.
“It is frustrating and time-consuming that we have to appear before you concerning a matter which started in 2010 and ought to have been finalised many years ago. Icasa has repeatedly failed to investigate or regulate a market in dire need of regulation. Icasa has neglected its duties and preferred one licensee over another,” he added.
Sherrif noted that e.tv – and other terrestrial broadcasters – have “paid a heavy price” because of Sentech’s monopoly. “In 2011, [signal distribution] was 14.6 per cent of our costs. It’s now 22 per cent of our costs,” he disclosed.