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Ken Borland



TV networks’ bias under scrutiny as Marnus slips from the net 0

Posted on November 07, 2023 by Ken

The incident on the opening day of the third Test between the Proteas and Australia where South Africa were convinced they had caught Marnus Labuschagne in the slips, only for the batsman to slip from the net, thankfully has not had a major bearing on the game, but it did highlight an area of cricket – and many other sports – where the authorities need to consider the role of host broadcasters.

Labuschagne enjoyed a huge slice of luck when he was on 70 and he edged left-armer Marco Jansen low to first slip, where Simon Harmer seemed to have scooped up a fine catch.

Neither Labuschagne nor the umpires were 100% convinced though, with third umpire Richard Kettleborough being called into play, the soft signal being out. Having watched numerous replays, the Englishman felt the ball had touched the ground, but a conclusive replay, zoomed in from the front, was strangely absent.

Labuschagne survived, and five minutes later, the crucial replay suddenly emerged and showed that Harmer did get his fingers under the ball. Fortunately, the South African-born batsman could only add nine more runs before the heroic Anrich Nortje got him caught behind.

The incident raised suspicions about the role of host broadcasters in the officiating of the game, and it later emerged that the third umpire only had access to the world feed camera shots and the front-on slow-mo replay was exclusively a Seven Network shot. But how that footage then appeared on the SuperSport feed was not explained.

One must credit Cricket Australia for their rapid response to the incident, with CEO Nick Hockley saying they will conduct a review on whether the third umpire should have access to footage from both broadcast rights holders.

“The broadcasting of cricket is probably the most complicated of any of the major sports,” Hockley said. “We have a huge number of cameras. It was really, really fine margins. The match referees and umpires are making the best calls they can with the information they have available.”

Indeed, Kettleborough and the onfield umpires, Chris Gaffaney and Paul Reiffel, should not be blamed for this controversy. It was an exceptionally tough decision for Kettleborough to make based on the incomplete picture he was given.

The International Cricket Council has been pretty good at removing the frustration of clearly wrong decisions from the game, and I would say the DRS is a roaring success. They will surely now be contemplating the perceptions of bias among host broadcasters.

As South Africans, we need to acknowledge the anger Australians felt when SuperSport targeted their cameras on them in 2018/19, while who can forget Indian captain Virat Kohli’s furious outburst (strangely unpunished) into the stump mics a year ago at Newlands.

And this is not just a cricket problem. Rugby has been particularly under the spotlight, with South African fans, already feeling there is a vendetta against them, infuriated by the number of times there has been incomplete footage of a TV referral that seemed to be going the way of their team. Like what happened with France’s matchwinning try against the Springboks a couple of months ago.

It’s a bit like an arms race, with broadcasters doing nefarious things on a tit-for-tat basis because they feel ‘their’ team were on the receiving end when they went overseas. But moulding the outcome of key decisions is clearly unsporting and we don’t want the match officials to become merely ornamental in nature.

If the current trend continues, the legitimacy of the sport we watch could end up having a wound that a mere plaster won’t fix.

Would an association of sports broadcasters which has a clear code of conduct be the answer? Any broadcaster who has been found to engage in favouritism could be stripped of their membership and not allowed to bid for TV rights.

There are bound to be all sorts of contractual, legal and practical obstacles to overcome, but would neutral executive producers/directors be the answer?

Both the ICC and WorldRugby managed to phase in neutral officials a long time back, which seemed unlikely to be possible at one stage, so where there is a will (and there needs to be one!) there is a way.

Icasa proposals will destroy investment in rugby – SA Rugby 0

Posted on January 20, 2021 by Ken

SA Rugby on Thursday submitted to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) that their remedies proposed in their draft findings into the broadcasting of sport by subscription television will lead to a severe reduction in the investment by these broadcasters in professional sport and will ultimately cost the Springboks the chance of adding to their 2019 World Cup victory.

Icasa have proposed that broadcast rights should not last longer than three years, that there should be no exclusive deals and that the rights should be split between multiple packages and broadcasters.

But in public hearings held virtually on Thursday, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said the ‘remedies’ would be an unreasonable burden on the federation and would mean they are likely to lose their fight for survival in these times of Covid uncertainty, while Senior Counsel Ngwako Maenetje said Icasa would be acting “irrationally” and ultra vires (beyond their powers) if they enforced the changes.

“If the regulations go through in their current format then we may never see a day like the 2019 World Cup win again. SA Rugby needs to produce compelling content that is commercially viable so we can develop the game from grassroots level to winning national teams. We are 99.7% self-funded, we only get 0.3% of our income from government, and broadcast rights bring in R752 million,” Roux explained on Thursday.

According to the SA Rugby presentation, broadcast rights make up 58% of their income, and sponsorships, which are largely dependent on TV exposure, make up another 26%.

“We are in a daily fight for survival, we are in financial difficulty having made losses between 2016 and 2018. We recovered a little profit in 2019 on the back of the World Cup and we looked forward to capitalising on that but no-one could have predicted what happened in 2020. Covid has pushed us into survival mode and had a massive detrimental effect. We’ve had to cut our budget by R1.2 billion.

“It has made insolvency a real and present danger, we’re on the brink, and if we had not been able to capitalise on broadcast rights, we would have been bankrupt by now. Exclusivity is the main source of our revenue and with less money it means there will be less rugby until we have to close our doors and only have club rugby. And then nobody will be interested in the game,” Roux said.

Judging by the presentation of Maenetje SC, Icasa would probably face court action if they enforce the regulations.

“No Regulatory Impact Assessment was conducted by Icasa, which makes the proposals irrational, they did not inform themselves of the adverse effect of these remedies. These effects are not proportional because they place such a burden on the rights holder, rather than broadcasters, such that they will not be able to sustain themselves. Icasa have paid scant regard to the dire impact we explained in our written submissions.

“By weakening one side of the equation you do not grow competitiveness in the market, SA Rugby will no longer be in a position to provide premium content and there will be an adverse impact on public interest. These remedies are irrational, not lawful and unconstitutional. They do not encourage investment so they undermine the Icasa mandate and exceed the statutory powers of Icasa,” Maenetje said.

Icasa launched their inquiry into subscription television services to ensure the broadcast market is sufficiently competitive, but Roux says “these remedies will have the completely opposite effect to their noble intentions”.

“The obligation is on the broadcasters and not on the rights-holders, which is where Icasa are acting ultra vires. There was no discussion of the economic impact in their draft findings,” Maenetje says.

SA Rugby had to listen to stakeholders’ bark or face the bite – Roux 0

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Ken

 

According to Saru CEO Jurie Roux, South African rugby had to listen to the bark coming from broadcasters and all other stakeholders in the game and cut the number of SuperRugby franchises or face the bite of economic hardship and potential disaster further down the road.

Roux was speaking on Monday at the launch of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, the new tournament that will slot in at the level below SuperRugby, following Sanzaar’s announcement at the weekend that South Africa will only be able to field four teams from next year.

“Our stakeholders – sponsors, fans, broadcasters and media – have been speaking very clearly about the lack of integrity in the competition because not everyone plays everyone else, and the confusing format of SuperRugby. Broadcasters wanted change to come immediately otherwise they warned us we were going to run into contracting issues.

“And the economic reality is that we cannot sustain six franchises, we can survive with five but then we’d have to sacrifice other things, and neither can we sustain it from the player point of view either. So it’s high time that tough decisions were made for the good of South African rugby, that’s what the staff are paid for and the office bearers are elected for.

“Ultimately it’s a numbers decision, the numbers of spectators and viewers are in decline and there’s obviously an issue with what stadiums are providing as well. Plus half our franchises lose more matches than they win, so they’re not providing quality competition,” Roux said at the Bill Jardine Stadium on Monday.

The CEO said politics and emotion had governed the previous decision to expand to six franchises, but he hopes the newly formed franchise committee, and the Saru general council that will ultimately consider their proposal, lays those factors aside when they consider which two franchises should be cut from Super Rugby.

“The ultimate competition was probably Super 12, but there was some selfishness, some mandates from country’s high-performance units and a lot of revenue and political factors that led to the expansion. The reality is that there will always be some politics involved, but emotions are tougher to manage and I’m sad to say a lot of rugby decisions have been based on them.

“My plea to the franchise committee is to make a swift recommendation, not based on politics or emotion, so that nobody can accuse us of stalling. I will push as hard as I can to have this decision made as quickly as possible, at most within a month’s time,” Roux said.

The CEO suggested another four professional franchises could play as a group in other overseas tournaments, while adding that the 14 provincial unions had to continue as semi-professional entities looking after the broad base of the South African rugby pyramid – the amateur and school teams.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170411/282144996206681

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