According to BMA Sources, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) wants TV licenses abolished for a TV levy. The public broadcaster told the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies at public hearings for the proposed SABC Bill that it would like to see a household levy system replace TV licenses. However, the state broadcaster believes that this household levy should be based on accessing the SABC’s services rather than the actual use.
The SABC wants a portion of the household levy collected by MultiChoice, South Africa’s dominant pay-TV broadcaster.
The SABC notified the department that, “unfortunately, the SABC Bill retains the outdated TV licence system.” It overlooks the SABC’s proposal that it be replaced by a technology-neutral public broadcasting household levy that would exempt the disadvantaged and be collected in part by the dominant pay-tv operator.”
The broadcaster proposed that the new SABC Bill repeal the entire TV licence regime and replace it with a home levy system, akin to the device-independent German model. The SABC stated that a licensing system tied to specific devices is inefficient and unsustainable in the long run. Furthermore, according to the SABC, the draft bill does not include any additional government grant funds for public interest programming.
Surprisingly, the bill advocated maintaining South Africa’s current TV license regime, despite calls from several fronts to modify it. MultiChoice has advocated against collecting fees on behalf of the SABC and instead favours a household levy for public broadcasting that is device-independent and technology-neutral. “Our stance is clear, said MultiChoice group CEO Calvo Mawela during an investor call in June, “MultiChoice cannot be held responsible for collecting money on behalf of a government entity.”
According to the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), TV licenses are already a tax and should be treated as such. The civil action group stated that a money bill should finance television licenses and that the Minister of Communications should not determine the rates. A regular annual state grant for the SABC’s public broadcasting services, according to Outa, should be considered as well.
“This would avoid the unexpected and disastrous last-minute bailouts while also providing a more reliable funding stream, particularly for public broadcasting,” Outa said.