For the past few weeks, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) have followed with keen interest the complaints that have been publicly made against Multichoice Zambia (commonly referred to as DSTV). Be rest assured that the CCPC and IBA have not ignored your concerns but have since inquired into the complaints raised.
These complaints can be summarised as follows:
i. Non-reduction of the DSTV subscription despite the appreciation of the Kwacha
ii. The repeat of programs and shows on DSTV
iii. ZNBC channels not being available on the DSTV bouquet when subscription has expired and
iv. Provisions of Pay Per View television
Mandate of the CCPC and IBA
The mandate of the CCPC is to protect consumers against unfair trade practices and ensure fair competition in all sectors of the economy. This mandate, however, does not extend to control the prices of companies operating in any sector of the economy.
The mandate of the IBA is to regulate the broadcasting sector by ensuring the promotion of a pluralistic and diverse broadcasting industry in Zambia. Similarly, the IBA Act doesn’t have a provision that allows the Authority to determine the pricing for broadcasting services offered by its licensees. However, all subscription management service providers are required to notify the Authority of subscription fee adjustments.
Non-reduction of the DSTV Subscription price due to appreciation of the Kwacha
We would like to inform the public that in a liberal economy, no regulator has the legal power to regulate the price of any goods or services. Where prices are regulated, there are specific laws that provide for that regulation. This can be seen in the energy, telecommunication, and transportation sectors. However, in the broadcasting sector, there is no such legal framework to regulate prices apart from forces of demand and supply. Notwithstanding, where it has been established that an enterprise has engaged in any anti-competitive conduct, the CCPC may carry out investigations. Preliminary inquiries conducted by the Commission in this matter indicate that the non-reduction of prices following the appreciation of the Kwacha is not anti-competitive and does not constitute unfair trading.
The investigations show that there is no violation under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act No. 24 of 2010.
We note that the macro-economic fundamentals, particularly the exchange rate and inflation have improved. However, these are not the only basis for price determination and thus, compelling businesses to adjust prices in response to the movement of economic fundamentals is tantamount to price controls.
The repeat of programs and shows on DSTV.
In relation to the public concerns relating to the repeat of programs and shows on DSTV, we wish to advise the public that content acquired is made available to as many consumers as possible. This is done by making content available over a given period.
This allows consumers an opportunity to access the content. This is NOT REPEATING content but merely making it available over a period. This is common to all Pay TV Platforms including On Video on Demand such as Netflix. Therefore, what one consumer may call a repeat another consumer may not have seen it.
Broadcasters enjoy editorial independence and are at liberty to package their program in whatever manner they deem fit. Provided such programming meets the ethical, cultural and moral standards as set by IBA.
We note that the pay TV subscription services industry has six players in the market offering various content and bouquets and that consumers are free to choose which service provider they want. Competition and consumer choice are the go-to-first line of protection in any liberalised market, with regulatory intervention required only when the market has failed. The consumer is therefore not expected to fail himself or herself when there are alternatives to the product or service in question.
ZNBC channels not being available on the DSTV bouquet when subscription has expired.
We would like to notify the consumers that signal distributors are the only entities obliged to make available free to air content to consumers. Such free to air content include ZNBC channels.
Currently there are only two (2) signal distributors Top Star and Gotv Zambia Limited. Multichoice Zambia is NOT a signal distributor but a subscriber Manager for the DSTV product and is NOT obliged to make available for free, free to air content, such as ZNBC channels. This obligation is placed on the public Signal Distributor – Topstar.
Provisions of Pay Per View television
The inquiries conducted by the CCPC sometime in 2020 established that provision of Pay Per View television would be expensive to the Zambian consumer. This is because content acquisition is expensive. Therefore, the option of pay per view would mean making available content on demand, implying that the consumer bears the full cost of the content. The model used by Pay TVs in Zambia of aggregating content makes them provide expensive content cheaper to the consumer (as different bouquets) as the cost is spread over a relatively large subscriber base. The conditions have not changed since as the structure of the market is the same to warrant Pay Per View television.
Additionally, neither the Commission nor the Authority can request an existing business to change its business model.
We further advise consumers to always inquire or seek audience with their service providers, regulators and to understand the product or service they are consuming. We remain committed to ensuring that consumers are protected, competition is promoted, and the business is allowed to operate freely in a liberal economy like Zambia, devoid of unwarranted regulatory interventions.
Public Relations Unit CCPC:
Public Relations Unit IBA: