The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) tabled its 2018/19 annual report in parliament on Monday (30 September), showing that the national broadcaster is technically insolvent.
The SABC reporting a net loss of R482.4 million for the year ending March 2019, with the main contributors of losses being sporting events and interest incurred as a result of the broadcaster’s liquidity constraints.
A further contributor to the loss is the decline in total revenue by 3% to R6.4 billion from that of the 2017/18 financial year, with advertising decreasing by R241 million (5%) compared to the previous year.
The SABC also only collected R968 million in TV licence fees over the period, indicating a fee evasion rate of 69% of the known TV licence holders not paying their licence fees.
While this is an improved collection rate compared to the previous year (where evasion was at 72%), it means that less than a third of licence holders are currently paying their fees on time.
Presenting in parliament earlier in September, SABC board chairperson Bonamisa Makhatini said that it was not sustainable to run the broadcaster on these collection rates and that the current licence fee is too low.
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.
Makhatini said that this R265 fee was the equivalent of 72 cents a day,
“How much do you pay a guy who is looking after your car at a parking mall? Surely you pay them more than 72 cents? There are more South Africans who can afford to pay R1 a day.
“If you won’t pay a guy who looks after your car 72 cents, what about the SABC which gives you 19 radio stations, five TV channels, and who plays such a critical mandate in educating, informing and entertaining our general public.”
He added that it may be possible to change legislation at a later date to protect the country’s indigent people from fee increases.
This change can not be made unilaterally by the SABC and would require an amendment of the national broadcasting act as well as permission from the minister of communications.