Senegalese regulator won't block league's deal with StarTimes
The CNRA, the broadcasting regulator in Senegal, has stated that it will not be intervening to block the new broadcast rights deal between StarTimes and the LSFP, the country’s professional soccer league, but wants the sub-Saharan pay-television network to confirm its legal status.
Excaf, a domestic telecoms operator, had complained to the regulator that China-based StarTimes, which operates across sub-Saharan Africa, did not have the legal right to broadcast in Senegal.
However, following a meeting with LSFP president Saër Seck on Monday, Babacar Diagne, the head of CNRA, insisted that it did not have the right to annul the agreement, saying: “The contract is actually between two private parties, the Senegalese League of Professional Football and the company StarTimes. Very sincerely the CNRA has nothing to do there.”
He added that the LSFP has every right to “receive partners, talk with them and find funding.”
The Senegalese Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons kicked off this month with live coverage of games on StarTimes’ Life TV channel under a 10-year deal worth 6.3 billion CFA francs ($11 billion).
Diagne said: “The only problem we have seen is the StarTimes company. The truth is that StarTimes has problems with its legal existence. StarTimes has major problems compared to the terms in force in Senegal. StarTimes had to conform to our terms.”
He continued: "An audiovisual company in Senegal must be in good standing on certain criteria. These criteria are not yet met by StarTimes. We will continue to chat with StarTimes. We want it to comply with the terms in force in Senegal.”
Seck said he was relieved that the contract signed with StarTimes had not been questioned by the regulator, but added: “We have taken note of the problems around the company StarTimes, our partner… Efforts must be made to comply with the laws and regulations of the country. We will talk to our partner to get it in order.”
The new deal entails two live matches per round, adding up to 52 across the season, to be produced by public-service broadcaster RTS, plus magazine programming, and complements deals StarTimes already has in place with the top leagues in Ghana and Uganda.
Last week, the Dakar Commercial Court rejected a request from Excaf, which offers digitial terrestrial TV services in Senegal, to prevent StarTimes operating in the country, but did order the broadcaster to pay 300 million CFA francs ($518,100) in compensation to the telecoms company "for unfair competition to the detriment of Excaf."
Excaf had argued that StarTimes did not have the legal right to broadcast in Senegal, having only entered the country in 2015 under a Chinese-led programme to give 10,000 African villages access to digital satellite TV.