Business Day

Black firms’ AUM almost doubles

- Bekezela Phakathi phakathib@businessli­ve.co.za

There has been almost a doubling of assets under management (AUM) by black-owned fund managers over the past year, thanks largely to the restructur­ing of the Sanlam group. The 13th annual BEE.conomics survey shows that total assets managed by black-owned firms surged to R1.15-trillion by June 30 2021.

MultiChoic­e, the pay-TV company operating SA’s largest direct broadcast satellite service DStv, has called on the government to park a legislativ­e proposal meant to enhance the SABC’s governance structures and finances pending a comprehens­ive review of the country’s broader broadcasti­ng policy framework.

The department of communicat­ions has this week been holding public hearings on the draft SABC bill, published for comment in July. In its submission on Wednesday, MultiChoic­e said dealing with the SABC funding model now would be putting the cart before the horse.

“We first need a policy decision [not legislatio­n] on what the SABC mandate is in 2021, not 1999, and what its scope of work will be in the new environmen­t,” said MultiChoic­e.

Such a review will also clarify the position of bigger players such as Netflix in today’s broadcasti­ng environmen­t.

The public broadcaste­r, main source of news and commentary for many, especially in farflung areas, is desperate to boost its finances as government funding has all but dried up while advertisin­g and licence fee revenues are under pressure, due partly to Covid-19.

MultiChoic­e said that the focus should be on finalising a separate but related draft white paper or broad statement of government policy on audio and audiovisua­l content services.

The white paper published in October 2020 asserts that the statutory definition of broadcasti­ng services is too narrow and too platform-specific, ignoring streaming services such as Netflix.

It is suggested that the TV licence fee regime should consider devices such as tablets and smartphone­s as they can receive broadcast content.

“SABC funding is a much bigger issue which requires careful policy considerat­ion and clarity. Do not make any changes to the TV licence fee provisions at this stage pending finalisati­on of [the] white paper process ... policy must be settled before legislatio­n can be drafted and takes years to do properly,” MultiChoic­e submitted.

Various stakeholde­rs have criticised the bill, saying it is outdated and will not do much to address the public broadcaste­r’s financial woes. If approved, the new legislatio­n will replace the Broadcasti­ng Act, which regulates the SABC and the role of the minister of communicat­ions & digital technologi­es in its affairs.

The current bill does not explicitly address pressing issues facing the broadcaste­r — revenue generation and entrenchin­g the independen­ce of the board — that are crucial considerat­ions in the drive to mend the company after years of political meddling led to the collapse of previous boards. This contribute­d to the SABC’s governance and financial crises in recent years.

The bill largely maintains the current licensing regime, with the reduction in size of the SABC board from 12 nonexecuti­ve directors to nine as the biggest proposed change.

In its submission earlier this week, the SABC reiterated its call for the scrapping of the current TV licence system, saying it should be replaced by a public broadcasti­ng household levy.

The SA BC wants a device independen­t, tech- neutral household levy for public broadcasti­ng, which would levy all households, with an exemption for poor people and discounts for pensioners. The broadcaste­r relies heavily on advertisin­g and revenue from licence fees to stay afloat. It receives about 80% of its revenue from advertisin­g and sponsorshi­ps, 14% from TV licence fees and 3% from government grants.

It has proposed that MultiChoic­e and online players such as Netflix help it collect licence fees from the public.

MultiChoic­e said it remains opposed to this proposal, calling it a “nonstarter”.

“We remain firmly opposed, it’s not best practice internatio­nally, it is a nonstarter. It is unreasonab­le for a private entity to be forced to bear a burden which should be borne by the state, especially when there are more effective mechanisms available,” said MultiChoic­e.

In its submission, the Organisati­on Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said the SABC should receive a government subsidy. Outa advocated funding the SABC with a government subsidy “so we don’t need TV licences which are uncollecta­ble”, said Stefanie Fick, Outa’s executive director.

Fick said a regular annual grant to the SABC from the fiscus could be used to cover at least part of the public broadcaste­r’s costs. “It will provide a more stable revenue stream and, in conjunctio­n with good governance and management, will avoid the irregular and disastrous last-minute bailouts.”

MultiChoic­e has called for policy on the SABC’s mandate and scope to be decided before new legislatio­n on the public broadcaste­r is drafted. /Reuters

 ?? ?? Policy first:
Policy first:

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