Industry reports indicate that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has significant challenges collecting TV licence fees.
According to the public broadcaster, it had a TV licence fee evasion rate of 82 per cent in 2021 — up from 81 per cent in 2020 — and the revenue generated from collections declined by 0.4 per cent year-on-year to US$47 million.
In its 2021 annual report, the public broadcaster said, “Overall, 2.2 million licence holders managed to settle their television licence debt in full or partly against a known database of 10.3 million television licence holders.”
The evasion of SABC TV licence fees increased between 2019 and 2020, with the public broadcaster reporting payment compliance of 31 per cent in March 2019, which decreased to 19 per cent in March 2020.
The public broadcaster first reported on licence fee evasion rates in its 2018 annual report, and its subsequent reports show a declining trend: 2018: 72%, 2019: 69%, 2020: 81%, 2021: 82%.
The SABC said several initiatives were ongoing to simplify the payment process in order to make it easier for licence holders to pay the fees.
Despite having a 26 per cent increase in online payments year-on-year, the broadcaster observed that the licence fee evasion rate continues to increase.
Recently, the public broadcaster suggested that TV licence fees should be replaced with a public media levy — a tax households and businesses must pay regardless of whether they watch the broadcaster’s content or own a TV – in order to combat its financial situation.
The SABC also wants other industry players like MultiChoice to assist with the levy collection.
However, the public broadcaster’s failure to collect TV licence fees is not the only factor contributing to its worsening financial situation. In May 2022, the SABC revealed that it had lost US$ 35 million in two years, attributed it to a declining audience.
SABC COO Ian Plaatjes stated that the decline in viewership led to a reduction in advertising revenue.