The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is planning a number of changes to its TV licence system, including the possibility of expanding the definition of ‘televisions’ to other devices.
Sylvia Tladi, the head of TV licences division at the SABC, told TimesLive that the current Broadcasting Act is nearly 21 years old and needed to be updated to consider new technologies.
“People don’t just consume content or broadcasting services from a traditional (television) set the way they know it to be. That poses a problem. Now you have people consuming content from all over, but they are not required to have a licence.
“One of the recommendations that we made was that the definition of a television set as it stands in the legislation needs to be changed (and) expanded to take into account how the media has converged, changed and made room for content to be consumed through other devices,” she said.
The planned devices include, but are not limited to, smartphones, tablets and computers.
Currently, a TV licence is only required when purchasing a television which is capable of receiving a broadcast signal. A TV licence is valid for twelve months and renewed at the end of the licensing period.
Tladi said if people streamed SABC content, a process of ensuring they had valid TV licences was also needed.
This aligns with a presentation to parliament’s portfolio committee on 20 October, in which the national broadcaster said that it needs a number of key regulatory reforms to remain viable in South Africa’s changing media environment.
The SABC said that regulations are needed around pay service providers like Multichoice (DStv) and video on demand providers like Netflix to collect TV licences on behalf of the SABC.
The SABC said that this would be similar to municipalities collecting traffic fines and motor vehicle licence disks. The SABC said that the expanded definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be adjusted to current realities.
“How do we, through Icasa ,make sure that they too are able to assist us to collect TV licences but we are not only limiting it to TV? We also have other platforms where people consume content and in all of those areas that is where we should look at how we are able to get SABC licence fees from those gadgets,” said deputy minister of Communications Pinky Kekana.