The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) faces continued collection woes around TV licences, as most users refuse to pay their fees.
The national broadcaster’s 2020/2021 annual report tabled in parliament this week shows that net losses increased by a further R20 million to R530 million from the previous financial year, TimesLive reported.
The SABC attributed the continued losses to the Covid-19 pandemic, with advertising revenue down by R740 million and total revenue collection down 12%. Notably, 82% of TV licence holders across the country did not pay the annual licence fee.
Overall, the SABC said that 2.2 million TV licence holders managed to settle their fees in full or in part against a known database of 10.3 million television licence holders.
Under current regulations, first-time applicants for a television licence must pay the full annual fee of R265.
Renewals must then be made annually before the licence expires, with users given the option of paying R264 each year or R28 in monthly instalments.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation Bill recently closed for public comment, at the end of August. Comments are currently being considered by the department and by the government.
The bill proposes keeping the current TV licensing scheme and improving compliance through harsher penalties rather than introducing additional taxes and levies.
It also proposes allowing the SABC to appoint inspectors who are empowered to approach households to check the validity of TV licences.
The SABC wants to ‘redefine’ TV licences, and has recommended the introduction of a household levy to help stabilise its finances.
This levy would be imposed on all households and is based on the possibility of access to SABC services rather than the actual usage of its services, the broadcaster said in a presentation in September.
The national broadcaster said that dominant subscription broadcaster – such as MultiChoice’s DStv – should be required to collect the public broadcasting household levy from its subscribers on the state-owned broadcaster’s behalf.
“Unfortunately, the SABC Bill retains the outdated TV licence system and does not take into account the SABC’s view that it should be replaced by a technology-neutral, public broadcasting household levy that would exempt the indigent and should be part-collected by the dominant pay-TV operator,” it said.
“The SABC reiterates its submission on that – as a pro-competitive measure and regulatory obligation – the dominant subscription broadcaster should be required to collect the public broadcasting household levy from its subscribers.”
The broadcaster has previously mooted an annual household levy of R265, and has also considered making TV licences a requirement for smartphones, tablets and other devices under a revised definition of ‘televisions’.
While the bill favours the TV licence over the household levy, it does not prescribe how the broadcaster will collect the TV licence.
Instead, it states that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa will be responsible for making TV licences regulations in consultation with the SABC and the communications minister.