The SABC wants to increase TV licence fees – here’s how many people actually pay

 ·2 Sep 2019

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is looking at increasing its TV licence fees as the embattled state broadcaster continues to face financial challenges.

In a parliamentary presentation on 28 August, the SABC said that it has drafted and sent a proposal to increases TV licences fees to communications minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

However, SABC board chairperson, Bonamisa Makhatini, has made it clear that this increase may not be enough to cover the broadcaster’s many expenses.

“There had been eight increases in 24 years,” he said. “If the fee were to be increased, it had to be considered what was affordable. Content had to be attractive and compelling.”

One of the key problems with raising TV licences is the issue of compliance with the broadcaster reporting a compliance level of just 27.8% in October last year.

Citing the latest data from Stats SA, Makhatini said that there are 9.6 million TV licence accounts in South Africa with 2.2 million paying and 455,000 on instalment.

The current annual TV licence fee is R265 a year. South Africans are required by law to pay for a TV licence if they wish to use devices which can function as a television.

This includes second-hand TVs, as they are still capable of receiving a broadcast television signal, which is the definition of a television set in section 27 of the Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999.

Technically insolvent

In the same meeting, SABC group CFO Yolande van Biljon said that the SABC is technically insolvent and is struggling to honour payments to service providers and contractual obligations.

Van Biljon said that the group’s financial position has worsened and that it ended the previous financial year with a cash balance of only R72 million.

“There are instances where we are unable to honour payments and even (unable) to adhere to committed contracts, which means we often need to renegotiate because we have been unable to meet the requirements.

“Currently, the organisation is technically insolvent. We are also under tremendous strain towards being factually insolvent as a result of our liquidity issues. Cash is depleted and the trade and other payables amount to R1.8 billion as at June 2019.

“There are a number of significant suppliers that make this up, notably Sentech (R554 million), our signal distribution provider; Supersport, Samro and various other content providers (amount to R174 million). We have monthly engagements with all these parties,” she said.

Read: The SABC is technically insolvent

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