The SABC (South American Broadcasting Corporation) board has given 2010 FIFA World Cup digital broadcasting rights to Sony, to the detriment of a locally based black-owned company which won the initial bid. According to papers before the Johannesburg High Court, SABC board chairperson Kanyi Mkonza and her two directors, Gloria Serobe and Andile Mbeki, unilaterally decided to snub Digital Horizons, owned by Joe Mjwara, in favour of Sony.
The SABC board’s decision to award Sony digital broadcasting rights for the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup games was taken in April 2008. Digital Horizons on Tuesday lodged an urgent application in which it asked the court to prevent the SABC from concluding the deal with Sony. Apparently, the deal is expected to be made final on Friday during the full board’s meeting. A committee appointed by the SABC board to look for a company which could partner the public broadcaster had earlier recommended that the tender should be awarded to Digital Horizons.
The tender stipulated that the successful bidding company was supposed to provide the SABC with four cameras (trailers) which would be deployed at various Air Time depots around South Africa, including Air Time headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, and would be used to televise major and prestigious TV productions primarily in the areas of sport, entertainment and events of national interest. The committee found that Digital Horizons, unlike other bidders TSL (Inala Technologies) and Sony, was technically equipped to provide the SABC with the service. It further said Digital Horizons met the SABC’s broad-based black economic empowerment procurement policy.
The Star is in possession of the committee’s report, which recommends that the R383-million tender ($50.5 million USD) be given to Digital Horizons. However, on Tuesday the court heard that the board chose to ignore the negotiating team’s recommendation and appointed Mkonza and her team, who overturned the committee’s decision. Mkonza and the two directors, according to court documents, appointed Sony. Advocates Richard Solomon and Kennedy Tsatsawane, counsels for Digital Horizons, argued before Judge Moroa Tsoka that the SABC board had failed to provide them with qualified reasons for their decision. “The decision to award the tender to Sony was not taken by the full SABC board,” Digital Horizons argues in its papers. The SABC board, through its counsel, advocate Peter van Blerk, argued that Sony “was a well-known and reputable company with Japanese connections”.
Van Blerk also said Sony’s bid was R66-million less than Digital Horizons’ quote (which would be roughly $41 million USD. He pleaded with the court that it should not grant the interim order against the SABC, saying such a decision would affect broadcasting preparations for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
“We (SABC) will have to pay the price for the delay,” Van Blerk argued.Judge Tsoka agreed with the SABC that the matter was not urgent. He called on both parties to make formal presentation in court on August 12. The judge also did not reply to the concern that the SABC might conclude the deal with Sony ahead of August 12