The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies confirmed its plans to impose TV license or broadcasting fees on internet streaming services during a parliamentary presentation yesterday (Wednesday 25 November).
According to the current Broadcasting Act, the public is required to pay TV license fees for viewing “broadcasting services” which include subscription services like DSTV. Essentially a “broadcasting service” refers to content viewed on a television set. Citizens are also required to have a license when purchasing a TV.
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But with the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime and others – all of which make use of the internet- the government (SABC) wants to broaden the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online streaming platforms.
Should this pass, it would mean paying license fees – which will be paid to the SABC – for using any streaming services, regardless of the device.
In addition to international fees, the government proposes that at least 30% of all content streamed in South Africa needs to be produced locally.
“These video-on-demand subscription services, when they come and operate in South Africa, everything that they show to South Africans in terms of their catalogue, 30% of that catalogue must include South African content,” says Collin Mashile, Chief Director of Broadcasting Policy at the Department of Communications. “In every country, the most popular shows remain the local shows.”
Other concerns highlighted in the draft proposed include:
- The government wants to impose a Code of Conduct for streaming services, with disciplinary measures if its rules are not adhered to. However, most streaming platforms are international companies, making this almost impossible to implement.
- Establishing a team that would be able to blacklist, block, require banks to halt transfers of payments of subscribers of international streaming services. However, this would be a violation of all South Africans’ constitutional right to free-flow information.
The Democratic Alliance is opposing The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies proposal saying they are ‘unequivocally opposed’ to any efforts that would require any additional payment of TV license fees.
“The public has already had to suffer the consequences of the billions in bailouts to the SABC has received via the public purse. The SABC must find creative ways to self-sustain, and break-even without requiring the public to fork out any more money.” the opposition party said.
It was announced that the public comment process, which was initially due to end on 30 October, had been extended to 15 February 2021. Comments can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to:
The Acting- Director-General, Department of Communications and Digital Technologies
Block A3, IParioll Office Park, 1166 Park Street, Hatfield, Pretoria
Private Bag X860, Pretoria, 0001