SABC, MultiChoice to be probed: Icasa

JOHANNESBURG - Icasa has requested that an investigation be done into an agreement between Multichoice and the SABC with regard to the transmission of the latter&39;s free-to-air channels, the regulator said on Wednesday.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has requested the Competition Commission to investigate a possible "restrictive horizontal practice" between the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and MultiChoice, spokesman Paseka Maleka said in a statement.

The request was sent to the commission on Friday.

"This follows an agreement entered into between the two parties in July 2013 whereby the SABC would have to provide a 24-hour news channel on MultiChoice&39;s DStv platform."

Restrictive horizontal practices involve collusion and certain competitor agreements and practices, while restrictive vertical practices involved certain customer or supplier arrangements.

Maleka said the agreement also contained an obligation relating to set-top-box control in which the SABC allegedly agreed that it would transmit its free-to-air channels without encryption.

He said there was an on-going dispute between and MultiChoice on whether free-to-air television services should use set-top-box control.

"The question arises as to whether the agreement between the SABC and MultiChoice, as it affects the issue of set-top-box control, may constitute a form of restrictive horizontal practice in the television market."

Maleka said the regulator asked both broadcasters to provide a copy of the agreement but both parties failed to supply the document.

This made it difficult for the regulator to verify a claim put forward by MultiChoice.

Maleka said MultiChoice claimed that: "Any contractual obligation upon the SABC to continue to transmit its free-to-air channels in the clear (without encryption) is an incident of the distribution arrangements agreed upon by the SABC and 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."

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