Millions of South Africans who owe the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) TV licence fees could get an amnesty – if the National Treasury and Cabinet approve.
News that the SABC has made an application to the National Treasury to grant the amnesty emerged during a briefing of Parliament’s select committee on public enterprises and communications on Wednesday (17 November).
Minister supports SABC TV licence amnesty
Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told the committee that she supports the SABC’s proposed TV licence fees amnesty.
“We are trying to support the SABC on matters that will make sure the SABC is a sustainable and profitable organisation, and there are issues I am aware are of interest to yourselves, as it relates to the stability of the SABC – for instance, the matter of licence fees owed by members of the public,” she said.
“We have supported the SABC in their request for an amnesty on TV licence issues. We are awaiting the concurrence of the National Treasury to take the matter to Cabinet to make sure there is an amnesty on TV licences.
“We believe that if the SABC achieves the amnesty, they will be able to use the opportunity to improve their financial standing.”
High evasion rate
The state-owned broadcaster has had to battle with a high evasion rate among South Africans over the years. According to its 2020/2021 annual report, it collected R788.4 million in TV licence fees, representing only 18 percent of total fees owed.
“Overall, 2.2 million licence holders managed to settle their television licence fees in full or in part against a known database of 10.3 million television licence holders. The licence fee collection rates indicate an evasion rate of 82 percent,” the report noted.
“The current depressed economic environment resulted in lower collection than anticipated. Whilst there is current legislative prescripts of imprisonment and payment of fines for non-compliance, the limited resources and costs required make this at present uneconomically viable.”
To address this challenge, the SABC has proposed several policy changes, including replacing the current TV licence system with a technology-neutral public broadcasting levy.
During the briefing, SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe also called on Pay TV operators in South Africa to help the SABC.
“Our bid to collect revenue from the TV license, we have made submission on that in terms of how we see the future of TV licenses, but our ability to collect as much as we can in that area is really getting Pay TV (role)players assisting us in those efforts of collecting,” he said.
However, MultiChoice, which runs DStv has already expressed unwillingness to add SABC TV licence fees to its customers’ bills.