Researcher calls for scrapping of South African TV licence charges
ALLEGATIONS of mismanagement and corruption at the cashstrapped SABC has resulted in fewer South Africans paying their TV licences, with one researcher suggesting the yearly fee be scrapped.
Martin van Staden, a researcher at the Free Market Foundation (FMF), an independent public benefit organisation, said one in four households paid the mandatory fee of R265 and suggested the public broadcaster not rely on South Africans to help “keep it afloat”.
He recently wrote an article for the FMF, saying he believes people do not pay their licence fees because they do not respect the public broadcaster.
“In recent months, allegations of mismanagement and corruption have plagued the broadcaster. A lot of people are angry and feel they should not be paying, especially when they see it as a corrupt enterprise. Yes, it is an insignificant amount to pay but South Africans should not be expected to pay.
“The broadcaster gets over 70% of its funding from adverts and sponsorships but still a TV licence fee is added on. It’s sickening that people are expected to contribute to the SABC coffers.”
According to Section 27 of the Broadcasting Act,“…failure to be in possession of a valid television licence is a civil offence”.
But Van Staden said the decision of paying a licence, which was carried over after apartheid, should be re-appealed.
“During those times and even earlier, the British ruled and they enjoyed control, so they implemented the fee. Up until now, in the UK, residents have to pay the British Broadcasting Corporation.”
He said there were 12.8 million TV owning households and of that, 7.3 million households had TV licences but only 3.45 million of them paid their licences annually.
According to Business Report, the embattled public broadcaster continues to face tough economic challenges with expenses exceeding the revenue generated.
The SABC recently reported a net loss of R622 million for the 2017/18 financial year, compared with R977m in the previous term.
It said it had a demanding financial year, with cash resources stretched to the maximum to ensure continued business operations.
But the SABC claimed it developed a robust turnaround strategy, which focused on financial sustainability, restoring the integrity, credibility and a culture of excellence in the public broadcaster.
Duduetsang Makuse, the national co-ordinator of the civil society coalition SOS, Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, said communities that are unable to afford satellite television depended on the SABC.
“We cannot say that because they are corrupt, they must die… The TV licence fee is needed now more then ever, at least until we come up with a new model that allows the SABC to function without the need of the licence fee.”
The SABC did not comment on the research undertaken by Van Staden but spokesperson Neo Momodu stressed the importance of buying a licence.
“In the same way as a motor vehicle or firearm, a TV set in one’s possession has to be licensed. A viewer cannot refuse to pay a licence on the grounds of his/her TV set ‘not being used’.
“A television licence is not an SABC requirement, it is a legal requirement. A TV licence is a levy imposed by the state on the use of what is, in any country, a national asset – the electromagnetic spectrum, through which all radio and TV signals are promulgated.
“In turn, private broadcasters such as DStv, e.tv, etc, as well as every radio station, pay in the form of a broadcasting licence for broadcasting TV or radio programmes to viewers/listeners on these frequencies.
“The licence is therefore not an SABC licence but a television licence. Whether one can receive one, two or three SABC channels, or uses a TV set to watch e.tv only, or only to receive the DStv satellite service, a licence is still needed since the signal still reaches one through the country’s electromagnetic spectrum.”
Martin van Staden, a researcher at the Free Market Foundation (FMF).