The issue was the focus of discussions on 17 May 2016 during an important meeting hosted by the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB) with the Chief Executive Officers/Director Generals of the continent’s radio and television establishments.
Marème Badji, a little middle school girl living near the Demba Diop stadium in Dakar is looking forward to the qualification of the Teranga Lions for the finals of the next Cup of African Nations (CAN) scheduled in 2017 in Gabon. Most of all, her dream is to see on her country’s national television, RTS, the Lions win the trophy that their basketball counterparts have already raised 11 times in their discipline.
What young Marème is unaware of is that Senegal will have to shell out a large amount of CFA Francs for her to conveniently watch the matches from her cozy home in Dakar. In 2015, Senegal had indeed disbursed some 898 million CFA Francs for the images of the CAN in Equatorial Guinea.
Cameroon, an icon on the African football scene, paid the same amount, i.e., 898 million CFA Francs. In 2013, Roger Milla’s country had to pay 750 million CFA Francs for households to watch the Indomitable Lions’ matches on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV). In 2011, 500 million CFA Francs had to come out of Cameroon’s government coffers for the sake of the cause.
For many observers, if nothing is done to stop the financial drain, an entire generation of African people may be prevented from watching their football heroes that they identify with.
To take the bull by the horns, the African Union of Broadcasting invited those directly involved in the chain of rebroadcasting sporting events at the discussion table. And it is Terrou-Bi Hotel, located on Dakar’s western coast road, which hosted the meeting.
The AUB's Chief Executive Officer, Grégoire Ndjaka, placed the meeting in its context: "Since the early 2000s, African national televisions have been forced to devote substantial portions of their operating budgets to the acquisition of broadcast rights of football matches organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) as rights fees due have been rising exponentially with each edition". That is why, there is an imperative need for our televisions to come together as an organized unit to stop these mercantilist abuses, he added. This is mainly needed because up to now, the over-commercialization of broadcasting airspaces has excluded a vast majority of African people from access to tournaments organized to promote their top sport, as the AUB Head indicated.
This cost escalation is occurring at a time when most African televisions that have switched over from analog to digital are facing numerous challenges associated with the quality of contents for their audiences. It is also a well-known fact that the arrival of private audiovisual players and the dramatic development of web television and radio programs have created an enormous lack of financial resources resulting from the atomistic advertisement market.
By inviting the Chief Executive Officers/Director Generals to this important, one-day think-tank meeting, the AUB intended above all to find ways for helping to control the sharp rise in the costs of the rebroadcast rights of sporting events. Another stated goal was to enable a maximum number of African televisions to have access to the rebroadcast rights of the next CAN at lower costs. It is not an illusion to think that. In other parts of the world, this has been made possible. Europe, with its strong culture of rebroadcasting sporting events, has pulled it off, he disclosed.
Why is Africa paying more for the rebraodcast rights of sporting events?