For the first time in South Africa, political parties could soon be seen flighting adverts on television – but not if the SABC had its way, according to a report on iol.co.za.
The public broadcaster told the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) that the flighting of political party messages could cost it up to R91,8-million in lost advertising revenue.
"It's a lot of money… Eighty percent of our revenue comes from advertising," said SABC news chief Snuki Zikalala.
"[It will] dent our finances, badly, badly."
Icasa finished public hearings on Monday on draft regulations which provide a framework under which party political broadcasts in the electronic media will be covered in the run-up to general elections next year.
The regulations stipulate that broadcasting licence holders must make available four two-minute time slots every day for election broadcasts and adverts on radio and television.
"It will be a first for South Africa," said Advertising Standards Authority spokesperson Lilian Mlambo.
She added that this was the norm in countries such as the United States, where, according to a Reuters report in July, presidential candidates in the 2008 race were spending an estimated US$800-million (about R7 071) on TV adverts.
Icasa's Brenda Ntombela said the SABC would still be able to charge money for political party adverts, but that it would have to flight messages from political parties, called "party election broadcasts (PEBs)" for free in terms of its public service mandate.
Mlambo said there were subtle differences between PEBs and party adverts.
"PEBs are like placing an advertorial in a magazine. It's subtle advertising… but for the purposes of not getting jurisdictions crossed, we call it editorial".
An advertising body like ASA would only regulate the party adverts and not the PEBs.
"It would be a nightmare to administer the PEBs," said Mlambo.
The SABC would have to flight the PEBs at no cost, which meant it could lose millions of rands, said Fakir Hassen, the acting general manager of policy and regulatory affairs at the SABC.
"The estimated loss of revenue through giving up traditional advertising time, as envisaged in the draft regulations, will be between R58,8-million and R91,8-million."
Hassen proposed that the regulations be changed to exclude television.
He said the SABC was willing to "bend over backwards" to accommodate the draft regulations on radio.
"Our sound broadcasters will provide 100 percent coverage to the electorate… [but] we should not be compelled to do any PEBs [political election broadcast] on TV at all," said Hassen.
But e.tv lawyer Dan Rosengarten, representing both the free-to-air channel and its 24-hour news service which is a channel on MultiChoice, said his clients were "grateful for and welcomed" the draft regulations.
"Advertising is the very bread and butter of e.tv as a broadcaster," he said.
Click here to read the full report, posted on iol.co.za.