The ANC has proposed to the government to scrap TV licenses in the country and replace it with a tax.
Speaking at a post-conference briefing this week, Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the party has decided to go ahead with the proposal, noting that the current TV licensing system is not working.
She indicated that she was not speaking as Minister of Communications, but as a member of the ANC.
“Public broadcasting needs to be strengthened. The SABC has both a commercial and a public mandate. In the public mandate, we want the SABC to be financed from the national tax authorities, but we are also proposing a household tax,” she said.
“The TV licensing scheme isn’t working, it’s even affecting the SABC’s ability to survive.”
SABC’s commercial wing, meanwhile, should be able to compete in the same way as commercial broadcasters, Ntshavheni said.
“They have to be given that space. The government has been instructed to finalize that bill.
She added that the public broadcaster should be deployed to fulfill a development role and that education channels, health channels and history channels should be promoted.
The policy position of the ANC is in line with the steps that the national broadcaster has already taken.
In the SABC’s annual performance plan, published in May 2022, the broadcaster outlined its plans to introduce a new tax to replace the long-standing TV license fee.
The proposal provides for the introduction of a ‘technology neutral’ public media tax to replace the existing television licence.
The SABC noted that this levy would be “device-independent,” meaning South Africans who don’t have a television would still have to contribute. The proposal also states that part of the revenue from the levy is expected to be collected by the ‘dominant subscription channel’ – in this case DStv and Multichoice – on behalf of the public broadcaster.
The shift in the TV licensing model comes as the SABC continues to see revenues from TV license payments decline.
In its annual report released in early October 2021, the SABC told parliament that TV license revenues had fallen 0.4% to R788 million.
As a result, only 18% of total license fees billed was realized as revenue, which is very similar to the year ended March 31, 2020, according to the SABC.
The SABC mainly relies on commercial revenues to finance its operations. However, there is tremendous legislative pressure to fund news and sports, especially of national importance, which are unprofitable. This puts significant pressure on SABC’s cash flows in the long run, it said.
Data for the 2021 financial year shows that the evasion rate is currently 82.1%. Overall, the SABC said 2.2 million TV licensees have managed to offset all or part of their fees against a known database of 10.3 million TV licensees.
Read: Load shedding gives SABC another blow