ANC wants ‘household levy’ to fund the SABC – report

The ANC wants taxpayers to fund the bankrupt South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) through a ‘household levy’ which every home in in the country would be forced to pay, the Sunday Times reports.

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) included this in its draft resolutions during a meeting this past week.

It proposes that the government should introduce a special levy to be paid by every household – regardless of how they consume content.

“Every household is assumed to have a television. It does not matter whether you watch it or not,” said NEC chair Nkenke Kekana.

He said that while the levy would not be a significant sum of money, collectively, it would be significant for the struggling SABC, the paper reported.

The proposal will be discussed further during an NEC meeting set to take place next month, and if it is agreed upon, will be taken to the ANC’s national general council (NGC) in May – where it would become government policy if accepted.

The levy would reportedly use a similar model to current indirect taxes like the fuel levy, which funds the Road Accident Fund (RAF), and electricity tariffs used to help Eskom.

Funding woes

Unprecedented market conditions and evolution in technologies are responsible for the current precarious position of the SABC, communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said recently.

Responding in a National Assembly plenary at the start of December, Ndabeni-Abrahams said that the national broadcaster was also impacted by state capture.

“A large proportion of the problems are market-related and require (government) to remodel the SABC as the public broadcaster in a multi-channel and digital environment. (We need) to rebuild the public broadcaster we want.”

Ndabeni-Abrahams said that the national broadcaster’s problems are not unique, with broadcasters in Europe and other parts of the world dealing with similar issues.

The minister said by far the largest issue for the SABC is finding an appropriate funding model, with the current mix of advertising, government grants and TV licence fees not able to sustain current content demands.

She said this has been exacerbated by decreased government spending, a challenging Covid-19 environment and increased role players in the sector.

New ways to collect

The SABC tabled its 2019/20 annual report in parliament in mid-November, showing a further decline in people paying TV licences.

The broadcaster said that the TV licence revenue declined by 18% year-on-year to R791 million due to the delayed use of debt collection agencies over this period.

“This resulted in only 24% of the total licence fees billed being realised as revenue, compared to 31% for the year ended 31 March 2019.

“As part of an overall policy review, the SABC is currently finalising proposals to government on the future collection of a public broadcasting levy, taking into account differing public views on this issue as well as international best practice,” it said.

In an op-ed published at the start of November, the SABC’s head of TV licences Sylvia Tladi said that changes need to be made to South Africa’s broadcasting regulations – including an expanded definition of a ‘TV set’ or now, a broadcasting device.

Some of the devices which are being considered under this expanded definition include:

  • Laptops;
  • Tablets;
  • IPTV;
  • Internet;
  • Decoders;
  • Set-top boxes;
  • Smartphones.

Tladi said that these devices, which have resulted in new media platforms and content dissemination channels, have a direct impact on TV licence legislation.

She said that the SABC’s submission also calls for an overhauled TV licence fee system and changes to the legislation regarding public funding strategies envisaged by TV licences.

Read: South Africa can expect an SABC 2.0 built by new funding

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ANC wants ‘household levy’ to fund the SABC – report