SA to review TV licence fees

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane says the review of the public broadcasting policy will commence with the review of the SABC.

The Minister said this when she briefed media on the process to review the broadcasting policy in Hatfield, Pretoria on Monday.

This comes after the department recently released the Issues Paper on its website touching on areas that have been raised throughout the policy process that have emerged over the years.

This includes, among others, the logic of maintaining a 3-tier broadcasting system given the regulatory incapacity to enforce it; ownership and control rules; the capacity of the regulator to regulate the sector and the need to strengthen the Free-to-Air platform, particularly the SABC as a public broadcaster.

“…Our review process will commence with the review of the public broadcaster and the frameworks that govern it. We have already issued a notice inviting stakeholders to submit issues for consideration on matters pertaining to its mandate, funding model, including TV license fees, governance and accountability measures.

“The issue of an appropriate funding model of the public broadcaster, for instance, has been deferred for too long and we hope [these] focussed discussions on the public broadcaster will finally resolve it. The due date for public submissions on the notice is mid-July 2018,” she said.

Mokonyane said this process will be followed by a colloquium in August 2018 where a report from the public submission will also be presented and thereafter, the outcome of the two processes will be integrated into the broader policy review.

She said the review will be published by the third quarter of 2018 and will allow for enough time for Cabinet to approve it in the fourth quarter of the current financial year.

“In this regard, we wish to invite the active participation of the sector in helping create a new vision for the broadcasting sector in our country for future generations. As government, we cannot succeed in doing the above alone without sector participation and partnerships,” she said.

SABC gradually recovering

Meanwhile, Mokonyane said with the recent appointment of group chief executive officer Madoda Mxakwe and chief financial officer Yolande van Biljob, the SABC, which is not in a stable state, is on a gradual path of recovery.

She said the department has in this regard appointed a joint turnaround team that also comprises of the National Treasury and the SABC, led by a turnaround strategist in a bid to improve the public broadcaster’s performance and sustainability.

“We are working around the clock with the National Treasury to stabilise the financial position of the SABC so that it can meet its financial obligations to its creditors and acquire new content.

“Equally, this is a task that requires the involvement of the public, who have to pay their TV licence fees so as to ameliorate the funding challenges the public broadcaster currently faces. This is important as we review the public broadcaster in the medium to long term through the policy process as outlined earlier,” she said.

Aldred Dreyer to head DTT project office

Mokonyane said, meanwhile, that the department has appointed Aldred Dreyer to lead a dedicated project management office of the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) project outside the structure of the department.

“Mr Dreyer’s knowledge in the project is unparalleled as he recently led a similar project in neighbouring Namibia with great success. Through the support of the department, he will be assembling his own team and as a team, they will be engaging the industry. I sincerely hope that the industry will give this team all the support because it is in the interest of all of us – government and industry alike – that this project is completed as soon as practically possible,” she said.

In the next few days, the department will be announcing a revised Advisory Council that will be tasked with advising her on various issues, including the analogue switch-off plan for the country and strategies to increase the digital terrestrial television uptake by households and the support of the project management office.

The Minister also said that while South Africa missed its digital migration deadline of June 2015, she has been informed by signal distributor SENTECH that M-Net has successfully migrated to digital and that they have switched off all their analogue transmitter sites.

“We deem this to be a significant milestone and therefore commendable as it releases high demand spectrum for mobile broadband services to our people,” she said.


Read: Major blow to SABC TV licence collections: report

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