According to South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the country’s policy conference commission on communications has agreed that there must be other ways to fund the public broadcaster, the SABC.
The minister said delegates at the ANC’s (ruling party) Policy Conference agreed that the heavy reliance of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on advertising is unsustainable, and government should ensure that the public broadcaster has access to adequate resources.
She further stated that newly proposed policies on broadcasting would focus on the public broadcaster.
“The SABC has both the commercial and public mandate. On the public mandate, we want the SABC to be funded from the national fiscus but also propose a broadcasting levy because the TV license doesn’t work. And the SABC commercial wing must be allowed to compete, be regulated the same way that commercial is being regulated and therefore they must compete in that space.”
In March, the public broadcaster briefed Parliament’s Standing Committee of Public Accounts (Scopa) on irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure for the 2020/21 financial year. It blamed some of the economic woes on previous management.
The Ministry of Communications, representing the government as a shareholder in the SABC, said it was concerned about the public broadcaster’s declining revenue.
Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Philly Mapulane, said at the time, “The declining revenue that we are experiencing if it is not attended to might pose a significant threat for the SABC in the future. Management insists that there will be no need for a further bailout, but from our side, it remains a concern.”
However, the SABC blamed this on costly signal distribution. “Because of our unique role and very high-cost structure, signal distribution cost is still one of the major costs faced by the broadcaster, and we are currently in talks with Sentech through the Competition Commission to have the tariffs reviewed, and that will save us over US$15 million, getting the SABC to be profitable,” noted SABC Board Chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini.