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By Citizen Reporter


What you need to know about the SABC’s new household levy

The SABC knows that South Africans aren't paying TV licences, and their solution is to have household levy collected through MultiChoice.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is not happy with the SABC Bill approved by Cabinet in July and wants to devise different ways to make a profit.

The SABC was making submissions to public hearings by the Department of Communications on Monday, News24 reported.

The public broadcaster has suggested a household levy to help recover and stabilise its finances – based on the possibility of access to SABC services – rather than actual usage of its services.

No more SABC TV licences?

The SABC has also called for a more even playing field amongst competitors, in particularly the dominant MultiChoice.

This would require MultiChoice to collect the public broadcasting household levy from its subscribers on the state-owned broadcaster’s behalf.

The SABC also criticised the bill, saying it does not provide for further government grant funding for public interest programming.

The bill was approved by Cabinet in July – which subsequently left SABC in more financial insecurity.

Anti-corruption organisation Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) believes the SABC should be funded “accordingly”.

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Advocate Stefanie Fick, Outa executive director, who made the submission said: “We are advocating for the SABC to be funded with a government subsidy, so we don’t need TV licences which are uncollectible.”

Outa says because the SABC is struggling to collect the TV licence money and outsources it, their solution to bring in household levies collected by MultiChoice is “problematic”.

“A regular annual grant to SABC from the fiscus could be used to cover at least part of the SABC’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,” the statement read.

Outa says their fiscus solution could cut wasteful expenditure, and if TV licences are retained, they believe it is effectively another tax and should be treated as such.

“Through a money bill passed by Parliament rather than a decision on the licence fee made by a single minister, Outa also believes that the regulatory environment should be changed to strengthen SABC’s commercial sector,” it said.

The SABC did say if the bill retained the outdated TV license system, and does not take into account their suggested technology-neutral, public-broadcasting household levy changes, it “would exempt the indigent and should be part-collected by the dominant pay-TV operator”.

SABC wants the current TV license system removed, and is concerned that the bill retained the TV license fee regime which is tied to TV sets – despite their proposal to change it completely.

Outa agrees with the SABC over rules like the “must carry” regulations, which “oblige the SABC to provide all its three top free-to-air channels to subscription broadcasters for free” (since 2008).

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