Are NBC and SABC Bedfellows?

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Shooting From The Hip

Carlos Kambaekwa

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and its South African counterpart (SABC) certainly have a lot of things in common. After all, both are public institutions administered along the same guidelines and principles.

Just as the South African public broadcaster is battling to recoup its most prized asset, the broadcast rights for the popular Professional Soccer League matches from Pay Channel SuperSport – the Namibian public broadcaster is embroiled in an ugly row with the country’s football authorities over the transmission of live matches involving the national football team, the Brave Warriors.

Thousands of football lovers across the length and breadth of the country were denied a golden opportunity to watch – let alone listen to – the airwaves for last weekend’s crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier between Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo following an unavoidable spat between the two public institutions (NFA and NBC).

At the centre of the dispute is an apparent clause in the 40-million-dollar, five-year contract between the Consortium of Sponsors and the Namibia Football Association, which prohibits conflicting potential sponsors from entering the fray.

For starters, MTC would not want to see Cell One getting anywhere near a competitive football match on Namibian soil, nor will FNB entertain any thoughts of Standard Bank eyeing a slice from domestic football and neither would NBL be happy with downing a can of Castle beer at any soccer match under the auspices of the NFA.

Trouble started when the NFA Consortium of Sponsors reneged on an earlier undertaking with the Public Broadcaster to foot the bill for the live broadcast of the Namibia/Libya AFCON qualifier earlier this month.

Ostensibly, NBC tried by all means to activate the agreement for last weekend’s match between Namibia and DRC, but the financially muscled Consortium would have none of it – prompting the public broadcaster to look elsewhere for a broadcast partner.

In all fairness, the NFA Consortium of Sponsors would obviously want to get value for their investment as an economic right, but the latest shenanigans once again crystallize the negative perception that the Consortium is only interested in marketing their own products through the popularity of football, with very little emphasis placed on developing the very same product they so dearly claim to serve and at the same time benching natural justice.

Certain clauses in the contract between the Consortium of Sponsors and the NFA demonstrate a clear transgression of natural justice, and unless these clauses are reviewed as a matter of urgency, the ongoing dispute could have a much bigger repercussion than most ordinary citizens might realize because it boils down to the heart of what Public Broadcasting is all about.

It should be well consumed that the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation has a mandate to promote issues of public interest with its greater reach and leverage to satisfy the majority of inhabitants who mainly rely on free-to-air Television and various indigenous Radio stations for some sort of entertainment and information.

Since there is no legislation that requires NBC to seek approval from the NFA to approach other potential broadcast sponsors, NBC acted within its right to rope in broadcast partners, albeit in conflict with the event sponsors.

The Consortium of Sponsors shot themselves in the foot because they stood to benefit immensely from the live broadcast of the match between Namibia and DRC without forking out a single penny for the live broadcast.

As event sponsors, banners displaying logos of the Consortium were splashed all over the stadium and there was no chance the Television cameras would have missed them, which meant free advertising since more viewers were going to follow the live transmission as opposed to the few thousands in the stands.

Namib Premiership outfit Ramblers Football Club found themselves in almost the same predicament when the Pionierspark-based club scooped a lucrative sponsorship deal with a soft drink company, which did not go down well with football authorities because of certain restrictions in the agreement between the NFA and its financial backers.

Yours truly has always and still maintains that the much hyped NPL Board of Governors is a toothless bulldog and the current scenario is a result of their reluctance to act swiftly when the situation presents itself. The mother body should never have been allowed to negotiate sponsorship deals on behalf of the league – this is just not customary practice in developed leagues because the NFA mandate is only restricted to the activities of the national team, period!

Broadcast rights of domestic football belong entirely to the Namibia Premier League, and it’s surely not the beat of NFA.

Watch this space! Yours truly will try by hook or crook to bring you more details on the sponsorship Charter because the clubs and the public in general have a right to the content of that contract.

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