New TV Licence plan coming – as 9.2 million South Africans refuse to pay

 ·5 Jul 2023

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) continues to fight an uphill battle to get South Africans to pay their TV Licences, with the government working on a new model to counter the culture of non-payment.

Responding to a recent written parliamentary Q&A, Minister of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) Mondli Gungubele said there are currently 9.2 million account holders who have outstanding balances for their TV Licences, valued at R44.2 billion.

The department revealed in 2022 that TV licence fee evasion remains staggeringly high in the country, with fee collection rates indicating an evasion rate of 81.7% in 2022 – similar to the 82.1% shown in 2021.

The SABC said it had a database of 10.5 million licence holders in 2022. The latest figures from the department (9.2 million in arrears) indicate that the rate may have climbed even higher (88%).

The minister said that his department is working with the SABC to develop a new funding model and leaving the TV Licence behind.

“In terms of the South African Broadcasting Corporation SOC Ltd Bill 2022 that was approved by Cabinet on 29 November 2022 for the submission to Parliament for processing, the DCDT is proposing that the television licence model be replaced with the household fee model,” he said.

The broadcaster’s annual performance plan, released in May 2022, showed the new ‘household’ 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.

However, the new levy isn’t yet past the proposal stage and legislative changes need to be processed before it can be a reality.

In the meantime, the non-payment of TV Licences continues to be a massive drain on the SABC’s finances.

For the 2021/22 financial year, the SABC reported a loss after interest and tax of R258 million and negative cash flows from operations for the financial reporting period, amounting to R353 million.

Gungubele said that his department would continue working with the SABC and Treasury to find ways to provide the necessary funding for the SABC while also exploring ways to improve collections of fees.

The minister noted that at least 5.6 million of the 9.2 million arrear accounts have been handed over for external debt collection.

“Pending the legislative changes, the DCDT will continuously engage with the SABC and Treasury to examine the options for the necessary reform and enhancement required of the current TV licence system to properly provide for the funding requirements of SABC and the most appropriate collection, enforcement systems and a timeframe for implementation.”

Read: South Africa sets ‘final’ deadline to switch off analogue TV – 13 years later

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