The SABC wants to broaden the definition of a ‘TV’ – and increase licence fees

The SABC has plans to revamp its current TV license-collection system.

In a public broadcasting colloquium document published on Thursday (6 September), SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhithini, said that the TV licence fees still remain the second largest source of revenue for the SABC,  but that the broadcaster needed to rebase the fee and strengthen the collection of this revenue.

“The SABC’s Television licence fee of R265 has remained unchanged since 2013,” he said.

“Currently the SABC TV licence fee costs an average of 72c a day for citizens who pay. In September 2018 I think we can all agree that there is very little (if anything) you can buy for 72c a day.

“However, for this average fee of 72c a day, the public broadcaster presents the South African public with:

  • 18 radio stations featuring all official languages and hundreds of hours of South African and international music;
  • 3 TV channels (plus 2 on DStv) that include billions of rands on commissioned South African television content, sports programming and television news production.

He added that the SABC ‘strongly’ believed that an overhauled TV Licence Fee system can go some way to funding the public broadcasting mandate.

“There are currently only approximately 1.8 million paying television households and businesses out of a total of 9 million accounts on the SABC database,” he said.

“To put this in a proper context, we have 14 million TV households and thousands of businesses. While 1.8 million paying accounts is a relatively small percentage, we believe that a credible, trusted and properly run public broadcaster, can create a culture of increased TV licence payment.”

Future plans

Makhithini said that compliance should first be tightened up at the point of sale and with other transactions relating to television sets.

“The SABC has submitted that a new, broadened definition of Television Set should be included in the Broadcasting Act,” he added.

“To enforce greater compliance on the payment of licence fees we believe reporting obligations should be broadened to include insurance companies and Pay TV operators. The SABC also recommends stricter enforcement and penalties for nonpayment of licence fees.”

“The TV licence fee is an established, internationally-accepted, statutory funding mechanism for public broadcasting and – while it may not generate enough revenue on its own to fund the public mandate – the SABC believes much more can be done to improve revenues from this source,” he said.

While no further information was provided as to the broadened definition of a TV set, the broadcaster had previously mooted the idea of requiring a TV license for smartphones and PCs.

BusinessTech contacted the SABC about this revised TV definition, but it had not replied with comment at the time of writing.

Read: SABC reports R622 million loss for the year

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The SABC wants to broaden the definition of a ‘TV’ – and increase licence fees