Controversial SABC Bill takes a major step

 ·20 Nov 2023

The Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies has opened the South African Broadcasting Corporation SOC LTD Bill for public comment.

The Bill broadly aims to fix the ailing public broadcaster via the following:

  • To repeal the Broadcasting Act of 1999;

  • To regulate the continued existence of the South African Broadcasting Corporation SOC Ltd;

  • To provide for its governance;

  • To amend the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act of 2000 and the Electronic Communications Act of 2005;

  • To provide for matters connected therewith.

However, one of the biggest issues for the SABC – funding – remains in the air despite the organisation reporting a loss of R1.2 billion during the 2022/23 financial year.

The situation is so dire that Deputy Minister of Communications Phil Mapulane admitted that the SABC requested R1.5 billion in additional funding from the National Treasury.

Although this was rejected while drafting the Medium Term Policy Budget Statement (MTPBS), Mapulane said that the department is hopeful that the 2024 budget will provide additional funding.

Estimates believe that over 9 million South Africans owe upwards of R44 billion in unpaid licence fees – which the SABC is unlikely to see.

However, the Bill does not detail any plans to move away from the TV license system; instead, it stipulates that the minister in charge must create a new funding model for the SABC within three years.

“The Minister must, within three years after the commencement of this Act, develop a funding model framework to ensure that the majority of the Corporations’ funding is sourced from the state-based funding mechanisms,” the department said.

“Before establishing the funding model framework, (the minister must) develop a comprehensive and relevant feasibility study to inform a clear business case for the Corporation’s funding model in consultation with the Minister of Finance; and consult with the Authority before the publication of the draft funding model framework for public comments.”

Thus, TV licenses will remain an essential part of the SABC’s funding – or lack thereof.

With the minister’s funding model still a while away, the Bill states that the SABC will source funding from:

  • Any money paid to the Corporation for advertisement;

  • Any money received by way of subscription;

  • Any money received by way of sponsorships;

  • Collection of licence fees;

  • Moneys appropriated for that purpose by Parliament;

  • Any money received by way donation; or

  • Any other amounts to which the Corporation is or may become entitled.

Public comments should be submitted by Friday, 15 December. Inquiries can be submitted to the Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies via [email protected].

Interested parties can also fill in this Google form for their written submissions.

The full bill can be seen below:

Read: This is how much South Africans spend on movies, video games, streaming services and more

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