SABC wants crackdown over TV licence fees

The SABC wants tougher enforcement of television licence fees, and has asked that the price be “rebased” from the current R265/year.

The public broadcaster’s chairman, Bongumusa Makhithini, told a public broadcasting colloquium in Midrand on Thursday that, despite low compliance, licence fees remain the SABC’s second largest source of revenue.

However, “we need to rebase the fee and strengthen the collection of this revenue,” he said.

“The television licence fee of R265 has remained unchanged since 2013. Currently, the fee costs an average of 72c/day for citizens who pay. In September 2018, I think we can all agree that there is very little (if anything) you can buy for 72c/day.”

For this fee, the SABC offers 18 radio stations and three TV channels.

“The SABC strongly believes that an overhauled TV licence fee system can go some way to funding the public broadcasting mandate,” Makhathini said.

He said only 1.8 million households and businesses — out of nine million accounts on the SABC database — pay their licence fees. “To put this in a proper context, we have 14 million TV households and thousands of businesses. While 1.8 million paying accounts is a relatively small percentage, we believe that a credible, trusted and properly run public broadcaster can create a culture of increased TV licence payment.”

However, there also needs to be tougher enforcement, especially at the point of sale or other transactions relating to TV sets, he said.

“The SABC has submitted that a new, broadened definition of ‘television set’ should be included in the Broadcasting Act,” he added. “To enforce greater compliance on the payment of licence fees, we believe reporting obligations should be broadened to include insurance companies and pay-TV operators. The SABC also recommends stricter enforcement and penalties for non-payment of licence fees.”

He said the licence fee is not the same as a subscription fee for a pay-TV service and is not linked to how much of the public broadcaster’s content viewers consume. “Rather, the TV licence fee is an established, internationally accepted statutory funding mechanism for public broadcasting and, while it may not generate enough revenue on its own to fund the public mandate, the SABC believes much more can be done to improve revenues from this source.”  — © 2018 NewsCentral Media

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