Government plans to double down on plans to charge computer, tablet and smartphone users to stream content with TV licence fees. Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams confirmed this when questioned by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Chief Whip, Michael Waters.
“What is the justification of (a) charging persons with mobile devices the cost of a TV licence and (b) transferring all the income of TV licences derived from mobile devices to the SABC?” Waters asked Ndabeni-Abrahams, as reported by MyBroadband.
The Minister went on to cite a section of the recently published Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020.
The amendments made to the TV license fee section broadened the definition of a television, and also stipulated that a collection system for the broader definition of a TV is necessary as the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC) is facing financial challenges. Ndabeni-Abrahams added that all South Africans are required to comment on the draft White Paper.
The public comment process for the draft White Paper closes on February 15, 2021.
The minister’s comments were not well-met by DA Shadow Minister of Communication Zakhele Mbhele. He said this does not properly justify government’s plan to charge those with mobile devices with TV licence fees to give the money to the SABC.
“This draft paper proposes to exploit another stream of revenue to bail out yet another state entity brought to its knees by years of gross mismanagement,” he said. “And it seems the Minister knows that this is not justifiable, given her poor attempt at answering the question.”
According to Mbhele, the draft White Paper seeks to extend TV licence fees to include streaming services such as Netflix, regardless of whether it is viewed on a television. He urged South Africans to submit their comments on the matter, and the DA has also launched a petition against government’s plan to make people pay a TV license fee for services such as Netflix or Showmax.
The petition was launched in December 2020, and set a target of 20 000 signatures.
“You should not have to pay a cent more to keep the SABC afloat,” he said.
The SABC previously proposed that regulations must be amended to compel streaming platforms like Netflix and DStv to collect TV license fees on their behalf, in a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee in October 2020.