Pay-TV operator Multichoice says that it supports the SABC’s proposals to introduce a household levy to help save the national broadcaster.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) plans to introduce an annual household levy of R265 on the eight million households currently in its TV licence billing system.
The SABC said that the levy should apply to all households, including those that use smartphones, tablets and computers to stream TV and radio shows – even if they were not watching SABC programmes.
Instead, the levy would effectively be placed on households who are simply capable of accessing SABC programming.
Multichoice spokesperson Collen Dlamini told BusinessDay that the current TV licence model should be scrapped as it is outdated and not in line with international best practice.
However, Multichoice said that it did not support the proposal that will make pay-TV operators collect a levy on behalf of the SABC. Instead, Dlamini said that a ringfenced public broadcasting levy should be collected by the South African Revenue Services.
Dlamini said that having groups like Multichoice collect the levies carries a number of logistical issues – including the fact that many South Africans subscribe to more than one TV and streaming service which would make collection difficult.
The levy is expected to generate up to R2 billion a year for the SABC – a lifeline for the embattled national broadcaster which has seen TV licence fee collections dwindle over the last few years.
Presenting to parliament at the end of February, deputy minister of Communications Pinky Kekana said that the expanded definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be adjusted to current realities.
Kekana 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 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.”