2006 Fellow Palesa Kadi has been appointed to chair the ICASA hearings on sport broadcasting rights. Palesa is a media activist, researcher and has worked as a regulator in the broadcasting and telecommunications space, where she serves as an ICASA councillor. ICASA is South Africa's broadcast regulator.
The hearings - and issue - is politically sensitive, as big-draw sport is currently mainly broadcast on expensive pay channels, locking out many ordinary South Africans from being able to watch sport on free-to-air TV.
After criticism from Parliament in 2018 on the age of the regulations governing sport broadcasts, ICASA responded by saying they would hold hearings in 2019, and the hearings took place at the end of May. Sports federations have slammed the possibility of changes to broadcast rules, because they make millions from the broadcast rights. However, most of the sport is broadcast on only the most expensive pay-per-view plans, effectively locking out millions of the country's viewers who cannot afford to watch.
Icasa is proposing to broaden the spectrum of what constitutes games of national interest, which must be broadcast on free-to-air. Previously it was only the national teams, but the proposed amendments would see competitions such as Professional Soccer League matches, Currie Cup rugby, Super Rugby, Africa Cup of Nations football for men and women, World Cups, Cosafa Cup football, national netball, and CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup football, among others, added to the list. All the federations oppose this. So to say that the position Palesa is occupying is a hot seat is an understatement.
The counterpoint can be seen in testimony from people like Grade 11 pupil Sanda Mgedezi, who spoke for the majority of the country’s poor when he spoke in support of the amendments. He sat alone without legal counsel - like the sporting federation bosses - facing the panel of 12. Speaking from the heart, he said that generations of young South Africans are growing up without access to sporting idols and role models because of the blackout of major competitions on free-to-air TV.
The public hearings in May happened during a busy time in South African sport, with five national teams – the Under-20 men’s football side, men's national cricket, men's national rugby, and the national women’s netball team featuring in World Cups this year. Many of those matches will not be broadcast on free-to-air.
Aside from chairing these hearings, Palesa is a Councillor at ICASA - the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa - where she is responsible for a range of strategic, regulatory and governance functions. These include elections broadcasting; community media broadcasting; sports broadcasting; cybersecurity regulations; alternative dispute resolution for consumers and telecommunications operators; strategy; compliance, and governance.
Palesa has served on a number of boards, including the Calabash Trust, a community tourism initiative in Nelson Mandela Bay; the Eastern Province Cricket Board; the Alliance Francei Management Board; Commonwealth Youth Advisory board; Media Development and Diversity Agency board. She is active in the development of policy and regulations in broadcasting and telecommunications sector.
The news media is covering the hearings extensively. One article on the issue is at New Frame.