Two of Senegal's leading media companies have mounted a legal competition challenge to the French Pay TV company Canal Plus. This is one more shot in the continuing war over access to Pay TV programme rights as markets across Africa continue to liberalise. Newcomers are discovering that it is far from easy to get their hands on premium content as the pioneers have “taken all the land”.
Excaf-Télécom and Delta Net TV have taken out three complaints against Canal Plus (locally branded as Canal Horizons), one to the Office of UEMOA, the economic and political union that covers West African francophone countries. The complaints centre on abuse of market power and unfair competition.
Although the coverage of the complaints does not seem to discuss rights, the two media companies' lawyer Khassimou Touré mentioned MTV Africa as one of Canal Plus' content providers and made clear that the complaints were about Canal Plus exercising a monopoly over a certain number of premium content channels within Senegal.
According to Touré both channels had offered to sub-licence some of this content but their offers had been turned down. Touré is arguing that the principal beneficiaries – the Senegalese population – have been denied this content:”…closing the door to proper competition and (thus) affecting he well-being of the population.”
The legal complaints have been bought under articles 3 and 4 of Regulation Number 002/2002/CM/Uemoa which cover anti-competitive practices. In doing so, the lawyer has drawn attention to the broad framework of Senegalese telecoms law (including the setting up of regulator ARTP) which sits with the framework of these articles. On this basis, the second and third complaints have been filed with the ICT Minister and the regulator ARTP.
Mme Touré, who is responsible for marketing at Canal Horizons said she was not familiar with the content of the complaints and that: “Perhaps our D-G might respond to this question at our next press conference. But for now we don't have anything to say until that happens.”
One of the two complainants is Excaf-Télécom, one of Senegal's leading private media companies. Owned by Sidy Diagne, it operates some of the countries most successful radio stations including: Dunya FM, Soxna FM, Love FM and Al Hamdoulilah FM. However its interest in this case is that it has been a long-time MMDS service operator in Senegal and has recently launched a new DTT service. The latter offers a local 24 hour music channel on channel 74 using a digital decoder.
Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire are two of Canal Plus's largest country markets in Africa and in the unlikely event that these legal complaints gain traction, it will find its business model coming under pressure. The continent's second Pay-TV operator announced earlier in the year that it will be rolling out its services to francophone countries.