Some South Africans may experience slight financial relief, as government is considering removing the requirement to pay a TV licence for lower income citizens.

Speaking during a Parliamentary briefing, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams explained that it is a worthy consideration to make, and is one the department is looking into.

“The department will, in due course, be consulting on the Draft White Paper Audio and Audiovisual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa,” she said. “It will be worthy to consider the category of individuals and institutions that should be considered for such a relief. As indicated above, this requires discussions and will be raised during public consultations.”

The minister listed pensioners and war veterans as those who may have their TV licence requirements scrapped.

Currently, first-time applicants for a television licence must pay the full annual fee of R265. Renewals must be made annually before the licence expires and may be spread throughout the year at R28 per month. Monthly payments are subject to a small premium for the convenience. The total cost is therefore R336 per year. Forgetting to renew your TV licence means a penalty of 10% per month to a maximum of 100% per annum.

Ultimately, the  South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has the final say on TV licence fees as they are the ones responsible for collecting it. Ndabeni-Abrahams says that the SABC has not engaged with them yet, so they are remaining neutral for the time being.

The SABC took a big knock during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country as many South Africans stopped paying their licences. In a parliamentary briefing in early September, they explained that their offices were closed during levels 5 and 4 lockdown, impacting on their collections in various ways.

From June, payments started to pick up but the company is still at a shortfall.

“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 during the briefing. “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.”

Their cash collections year to date (April 1-July 31, 2020) amounted to R228.05-million, a shortfall of R166.99-million (42.3%). Year on year, cash revenue is R17.97-million (7.3%) less than the previous fiscal year.

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