SABC proposes R265 annual TV Tax for all South African households

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The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is working hard to find ways in which generate capital from the public. Presenting to parliament at the end of February, deputy minister of Communications Pinky Kekana proposed that the SABC scrap its outdated TV licence fees system and replace it with a compulsory annual “public broadcasting levy” of R265.

According to TimesLive, the cash-strapped public broadcaster says the annual levy will apply to all South African households who own a TV set or a device (including smartphones, tablets and computers) that can stream its service, even if they don’t watch or listen to any SABC programmes.

If approved, the SABC would introduce the levy to eight million households currently in its TV licence billing system. The levy is projected to generate up to R2 billion a year for the public broadcaster and only indigent households and pensioners would be exempt from paying it.

Minister Kekana said that the definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be adjusted to current realities and technology. Multichoice has voiced its support for the annual levy and is expected to help with collect fees on behalf of the national broadcaster.

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“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.”

“The current TV licence fee system should be scrapped and replaced with a device-independent, tech-neutral household levy for public broadcasting, which would levy all households, with an exemption for the indigent and discounts for pensioners.”

“The household levy is founded on the fact that every single South African household has the realistic ability to access public broadcasting content, whether via analogue free-to-air TV and radio platforms or via DTT, DTH, the internet and streaming services through several mobile apps.”

A similar levy system was passed by the German Constitutional Court in 2018 as it was “specifically for the financing of public service programming that is fundamental to democracy.” The court agreed that even if a household does not use public broadcasting, they still have a “realistic ability to use it”.

Kekana noted that this was just a proposal and that any additional levies would need to be approved by Finance minister Tito Mboweni. Kekana also said that “despite reports to the contrary, the SABC is not in favour of licensing or charging any devices or technology in lieu of a public broadcasting levy.”

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