Massive drop in TV licence payments as SABC pushes for new ways to collect

Communications and Digital Technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has published data showing how many businesses and individuals are paying their TV licences.

Responding to a written parliamentary Q&A from the Democratic Alliance, Ndabeni-Abrahams’ data shows a decline in both business and domestic licences payments.

The data for the 2019/2020 financial year shows that just 1,896,586 people paid their domestic TV licences.

While the data for the most recent financial year is not yet available, SABC chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon recently revealed that only 2.5 million of 9.5 million TV licence holders on their database paid their TV licence fees last year.

She added that the SABC billed around R3 billion in TV licence fees per year but was only able to collect around R791 million.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) chief executive Wayne Duvenage told MyBroadband that the low compliance rate is a clear sign that it is a tax revolt.

He said paying for a TV licence is a small annual fee, but that most people do not pay it out of principle.

“It is seen as an unnecessary tax, and nothing gets citizens onto a cause of defiance against a state that is steeped in corruption than a tax revolt that the government can do nothing about,” said Duvenage.

The Department of Communications has indicated that tit will now look at other means to improve licence collections and raise additional funding for the embattled SABC.

Presenting to parliament this week, deputy minister of Communications Pinky Kekana said that if companies like Multichoice can be obligated to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the SABC, it could mitigate some of the financial issues facing the state broadcaster.

Kekana added that this would not be limited to Multichoice and that other broadcasters may also assist in collecting. In an October 2020 briefing, the SABC indicated that this could include streaming services such as Netflix.

She said that the SABC’s budgetary constraints mean that it now runs the risks of having to rationalise programming which is presented in indigenous languages.

She said that a household levy could help alleviate these concerns, as the SABC could be further funded as public service media.

However, Kekana said that this was just a proposal and that any additional levies and taxes would have to be approved by Finance minister Tito Mboweni.

“We can’t fold our arms and say the status quo must remain when we know our our public broadcaster is dwindling. So these are the proposals we must put in the public domain and whether the government can fund us directly from the fiscus or be creative at looking at the household levy.”

Read: New age restrictions for Netflix in South Africa

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Massive drop in TV licence payments as SABC pushes for new ways to collect