The South African Broadcasting Company (SABC) has proposed a number of changes be made to the country’s TV licenses. During a presentation with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tuesday, October 20 the SABC said that there needs to be a number of regulatory reforms for it to remain viable in the ever-changing media environment.
Several proposals were made during a separate meeting with SABC, Sentech, and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) before being presented to the Portfolio Committee.
Some of the proposed changes include:
The SABC has proposed that sports rights be made more readily available to the public by making prices more affordable. According to the corporation, the cash 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.”
According to the SABC, TV license fee collections are still being pursued on a monthly basis, and there are now plans underway to minimise the shortfall that comes from not getting all due payments.
“Licence holders who have not made 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.”
TV license changes
Regulations will be needed around paying service providers such as Multichoice and video on-demand providers like Netflix are recommended to collect TV licenses on behalf of the SABC.
According to the SABC, this will work similarly to how municipalities collect traffic fines and motor vehicle disks. The corporation also added that the definition of a TV license is outdated and needs to be adjusted for the current media landscape.
“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,” said Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana.
Removal of the must-carry rule
The SABC has also demanded the removal of the “must-carry rule”. This rule ensures that broadcasters with more than 30 channels must carry the SABC’s three free-to-air television channels. However, regulations state that the SABC must offer its television programmes at no cost.
Instead, the SABC wants to negotiate with pay-TV providers to pay for the three channels as it believes that regulations must deal with the “one-sided” favour shown to Multichoice.