The debacle around soccer broadcasting has attracted comment from many
quarters, and most commentators agree that the SABC fumbled the ball in
losing the rights to broadcast local soccer to SuperSport.

In a typical comment, the Sunday Times says in an editorial that the deal will inject significant sums into local soccer, but that the SABC has been left with egg on its face.  “It can’t be a good thing that the public broadcaster has allowed itself to be so thoroughly trumped. It inspires neither confidence nor affecton.”

Also in the Sunday Times, Mohau Pheko says that the debacle could be a useful lesson for the SABC.  “While it is traumatising for the SABC to lose rights to the sporting nation’s vice, soccer, it is time for it to earn its keep and become relevant to society.”

The SABC should present “a strong brand that conveys the values inherent to a public service – values that instil confidence in people, an ‘island of credibility’ in a sea of content,” writes Pheko.

In an editorial headed “Radio Gaga” , the Mail & Guardian criticises the SABC for taking action against sports presenter Robert Marawa for talking to SuperSport about the deal, and for barring its staff from attending the tournament’s media launch. 

The M&G writes: “Blacklisting individuals is bad enough. But blacklisting news events and suspending journalists is even worse.”

In its editorial, City Press says that the PSL had every right to sell the broadcast rights to the highest bidder. The SABC had no automatic rights to the games just because it is the public broadcaster.  The paper writes:  “What the SABC seems to forget is that the days of monopoly broadcasting are over. If they so much as dilly dally or snooze, they lose, because there are others who can do what they can do.”

And Anton Harber in his Business Day column points to the parallels to Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the UK Premier League in 1992.  The SABC will have to realise that the world has changed, writes Harber: “For the first time, there is starting to be a really competitive market in television. Suddenly, we are seeing a real value being put on content and talent. The SABC has been able until now to dictate terms to those who sold them any material, whether it was sport, drama or education. Now they will either have to recognize and pay for that value, or they will continue to lose out to more agile and aggressive competitors.”