During a presentation to parliament’s portfolio committee on Tuesday (20 October) the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) proposed a number of changes to South Africa’s TV licence and the ways in which they should be collected.
As the SABC continues to struggle to collect revenue it proposed the following regulatory reforms to parliament’s portfolio committee:
The SABC said that the definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be updated alongside modern technology. It proposed that new regulations are needed for paid service providers like Multichoice (DStv) and on-demand streaming services like Netflix in order to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the SABC.
According to the corporation, the collection of TV license fees has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“TV Licences’ cash for all the revenue streams started to improve slightly in the month of June, the period where many restrictions were eased and suppliers were able to operate,” it said. “However, owing to the economic climate which has had an effect on licence holders’ disposal of cash, compliance levels have not improved and are expected to steadily decline for the remainder of 2020.”
It went on to compare the regulation to municipalities collecting traffic fines and motor vehicle licence disks. Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana indicated that TV licences could also be expanded to include other devices and not just TVs.
“How do we, through Icasa, make sure that they too are able to assist us to collect TV licences but we are not only limiting it to TV? We also have other platforms where people consume content and in all of those areas that is where we should look at how we are able to get SABC licence fees from those gadgets,” Kekana said.
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Removal of the must-carry rule
The SABC also wants to do away with the ‘must-carry rule’. This regulation ensures that all subscription broadcasters with more than 30 channels are obliged to carry SABC’s three free-to-air television channels.
While the legislation does allow for “commercial negotiations” between the parties, it states that the SABC “must offer its television programmes, at no cost,” to subscription broadcasters.
The SABC said it now wants to negotiate with paid-for providers to pay for these three channels as it feels current regulations are ‘one-sided’.
During the presentation, the SABC also proposed that sports rights be made more readily available to the public by making prices more affordable.
The SABC said that TV licence fees are constantly being pursued and that the corporation will be implementing plans to minimise the shortfall that comes from not getting all due payments.
“Licence holders who have not made any payment during the renewal phase will be referred to debt collectors 60 days after the renewal date. This is the only recourse available to the SABC to pursue payments from non-compliant licence holders.”
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