Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says that her department will consider waiving TV licence fees for some South Africans as part of consultations on a new white paper.
Ndabeni-Abrahams was responding to a written parliamentary Q&A in which she was asked whether her department will consider scrapping television licence fees specifically for pensioners and war veterans.
“The department will, in due course, be consulting on the Draft White Paper Audio and Audiovisual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa,” she said.
“It will be worthy to consider the category of individuals and institutions that should be considered for such a relief.”
She said the collection of television licence fees is the responsibility of the SABC. She added that her department has not adopted a position in this regard because the SABC has not engaged the department on the issue.
“As indicated above, this requires discussions and will be raised during public consultations,” she said.
South Africans not paying TV licences
The SABC says TV licence cash collections were severely impacted during the coronavirus lockdown as its usual collection methods were closed.
In a presentation to parliament at the start of September, the national broadcaster said that under the level 4 and 5 national lockdowns its collections were impacted in the following ways:
- Bulk printing and mailing of correspondence to licence holders ceased, this service was not seen as an essential service;
- Payments at retail pay points reduced owing to the Covid-19 Regulations which restricted the movement of people;
- Regulations that prohibited the continuation of Call Centre operations;
- Absence of debt collection;
- New Licences cash declined as a result of the inability of retailers to sell television sets.
The SABC said that Debt Collection Agencies (DCAs) commenced collections in the last week of May 2020 and considerable improvement was recorded in June and July 2020 compared to prior months.
“TV Licences’ cash for all the revenue streams started to improve slightly in the month of June, the period where many restrictions were eased and suppliers were able to operate,” it said.
“However, owing to the economic climate which has had an effect on licence holders’ disposal of cash, compliance levels have not improved and are expected to steadily decline for the remainder of 2020.”
Cash collections year to date (1 April – 31 July 2020) amount to R228.05 million with a shortfall of R166.99 million (42.3%). Year on year, cash revenue is R17.97 million (7.3%) less than the previous fiscal year.