SABC wants to replace TV licence system with R265 ‘household levy’

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The cash-strapped SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has proposed scrapping its TV licence system and replacing it with a R265 annual household levy for all South African households except indigent ones.

The proposal is contained in SABC’s submission to the government, excerpts of which were shared by board member Michael Markovitz on Twitter last week.

SABC household levy

Quoting from the submission, Markovitz wrote, “The SABC’s submission is based on the accepted principle that the sustainability of the public broadcaster, through the financing of public mandate programming, is vital to our constitutional democracy.

“The current SABC 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 exemption for the indigent and discounts for pensioners.

“The SABC (proposal) is founded on 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 [digital terrestrial television], DTH [direct to home], the internet and streaming services through several mobile apps.”

According to SABC’s submission, the household levy would be “linked to public’s ability to access public broadcasting content rather than consumption of that content.”

R2 billion revenue

Although Markovitz did not make reference to the R265 amount, Sunday Times reported on it over the weekend. The report further stated that there are eight million households on the SABC’s TV licence billing system.

The public broadcaster reportedly hopes to raise R2 billion annually from the proposed household levy (also known as public broadcasting levy), which would shore up its revenues following years of declining TV licence fee collection.

According to its 2019/2020 annual report presented to Parliament in November last year, SABC’s TV licence revenue plunged by 18 percent to R791 million compared to the previous year.

SABC blamed the delayed use of debt collection agencies, which resulted in just 24 percent of licence fees billed being paid compared to 31 percent in the previous year, for the decline.

The public broadcaster’s board and executive management are battling to turn around the company following years of losses, the latest being a R511 million loss in its financial year ending March 2020.

It is forging ahead with its controversial plan to retrench more than 300 employees despite opposition from various groups, including the governing ANC.

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