South Africa are the world’s no.1 Test cricket team, but its own national public broadcaster doesn’t seem to care.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has seen fit to not broadcast the two Tests against New Zealand at the start of 2013 in full, rather opting for two highlight packages of an hour each instead daily.
While the public broadcaster is the political lapdog of the ruling African National Congress in South Africa, as it was the then-ruling National Party’s during apartheid, their lack of foresight in rejecting Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) overtures will only benefit the monster that is pay channel SuperSport.
Media reports on the southern tip of Africa have indicated that while publicly CSA are not too unhappy with the deal, in reality they are livid with the SABC’s decision, since it impacts on CSA’s revenue and the body’s ability to reach a wider audience than SuperSport offers, as most people in South Africa cannot afford the DStv platform from which SuperSport operates.
The SABC has stated they will continue to serve the public, which is laughable, given how the organisation has been politically crippled due to oversight from the ruling party, and how they are rejecting broadcasting the world’s newly anointed Test kings as they play on home soil for the first time. They are also not fulfilling their mandate of meeting the public’s need for national sport. Given their sketchy record on soccer and non-existent one on rugby, this is not a surprise. Money is a factor, but surely there was more wiggle room?
New Zealand might not be the most glamorous of opposition, and even though the SABC said it would broadcast all three Pakistan Tests following the New Zealand series, all they are doing is pushing CSA more into the arms of SuperSport.
There was an outcry when the England Cricket Board (ECB) sold their TV rights to pay channel Sky Sports a few years back, having previously worked with the more accessible Channel 4. The ECB sighted at the time economics as the motivating factor, with Sky being able to offer more money than Channel 4.
A similar scenario looks like it could happen in South Africa, with the SABC only having themselves to blame. And who loses the most? The viewers who love cricket, but can’t afford to watch it. That’s the real tragedy