Plan to scrap TV licences in South Africa: report

 ·9 Jan 2023

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) stands firm on its plan for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to eliminate TV licences and rather introduce a new tax.

EWN reported that Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, an ANC NEC member and South Africa’s minister of communications, reiterated the party’s push toward an alternative method of taxing TV ownership during a policy briefing this past weekend.

Ntsahvheni was quoted saying that the process of drafting the framework for the new method has already begun within the government itself.

This echoes previous statements and policy positions from the ANC in August 2022, where the party pushed forward with a proposal that a device-independent levy be charged – adding that the current licensing scheme is not working.

The ANC has noted in the past that it wishes for the SABC to be funded from the national fiscus, but it also finds it necessary to have a household levy/ public media levy.

The broadcaster’s annual performance plan, released in May 2022, showed the new levy would mean that South Africans who do not have a television set will still be required to contribute.

In essence, the levy will apply to all households and businesses in the country, regardless of device, and will be based on access to content rather than actual viewing. You will have to pay the levy even if you do not consume SABC content as long as you have access to it on any device.

The proposal went on to state that part of the levy’s revenue is expected to be collected by the ‘dominant subscription broadcaster’ – comprising of both DStv and Multichoice – on behalf of the broadcaster.

The majority of South Africans don’t pay their TV licences, affecting the SABC’s bottom line. The group’s annual report for 2022 showed that there was an evasion rate of 81.7% over the course of the year.

The SABC has a database of 10.5 million TV license holders, with approximately 8.6 million currently not holding a license.

“While there are legislative prescripts enabling imprisonment for non-compliance, the limited resources and costs implications make enforcement economically unviable,” said the SABC. The company added that the collection cost for TV license fees in South Africa had also increased to 8.9% in 2022 from 8.1% in 2021.

According to SABC, the new scheme will aid in the company becoming financially viable.

The SABC reported a loss of R258 million and a negative cash flow of R353 million for the financial reporting period in 2022.

SABC’s working capital remains healthy, with a net current asset of R767 million. Despite this, the SABC expects to only break even in 2022/23.


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