Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 08-09-2011

France-based sports rights agency SportFive has been accused of inflating broadcasting costs by the head of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), amid widespread criticism of his network’s failure to screen a recent international football fixture.

The price per match for the African Cup of Nations qualifiers has risen tenfold since SportFive acquired the rights from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) earlier this year, Phil Molefe, acting chief executive of SABC, told a parliamentary select committee this week.

SABC has been subject to viewers’ wrath after its failure to televise all of South Africa’s qualifying match away against Niger for the African Cup of Nations on Sunday (4 September).

Mr Molefe reportedly claimed SABC was asked for over 5 million rand to televise the Niger v South Africa qualifier for the African Cup of Nations. Its highest offer of 1.5 million rand for the broadcasting rights was apparently rejected by the agency.

At the eleventh hour, the South Africa Football Federation intervened and a larger figure was finally settled upon. However, angry fans watching at home only saw the culmination of the game, which ended in a 2-1 defeat for Bafana Bafana.

The public broadcaster claims it only received the live feed once the second half had begun, and is now accusing SportFive of breaching its contract, according to Sport 24.

The “inflated” asking price for broadcasting rights had, Mr Molefe told MPs, posed problems for a number of cash strapped African broadcasters.

“This [situation] is not unique to the SABC. Nigeria had a blackout on their match with Madagascar. We have heard that SportFive wanted about 2.5 million rand. Now, Madagascar is not even placed anywhere in the ratings,” Mr Molefe is quoted as saying by Sport 24.

He added that Ghana also refused to pay the fees demanded by SportFive for football rights.

The network chief said he is heading a delegation to resume talks next week with SportFive in France over South Africa’s next qualifying match and the African Cup of Nations tournament.