TV licence amnesty in South Africa on the cards
Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has backed a proposal to introduce a TV licence amnesty in South Africa.
Ntshavheni told parliament’s portfolio committee for communications that the amnesty would give the SABC more breathing room to deal with its financials.
“We are awaiting the concurrence of the National Treasury so that we can take the matter to parliament to make sure that there is an amnesty on TV licences,” she said.
“We believe that if the SABC achieves this amnesty, they will be able to use the opportunity to improve their financial standing.”
The SABC currently spends large amounts of money to employ debt collection agencies to follow up on non-payments.
Offering South Africans amnesty on their outstanding TV licence fees could improve collections as they do not have to worry about back payments or penalties.
Amnesty could also ease the SABC’s move to a new collection model that focuses on a general levy rather than individual licences.
The SABC’s 2020/2021 annual report shows that 82% of TV licence holders across the country did not pay the yearly licence fee.
Overall, the SABC said that 2.2 million TV licence holders managed to settle their fees in full or in part against a known database of 10.3 million television licence holders.
The SABC reiterated its plan to fundamentally change South Africa’s TV licence to a more general levy during the parliamentary briefing.
The SABC said the current model only requires a TV licence when a person owns a television, making collections challenging.
It said developments in technology meant that people could access television content through many different devices and platforms.
“As recommended to the White Paper and the SABC bill, the current TV licence fee system should be scrapped and replaced with a device-independent, tech-neutral public media levy for public broadcasting, which would levy all households, commercial enterprises, organisations and institutions,” the SABC said.
“The household levy is founded on the fact that every single South African household or entity has the realistic ability to access public broadcasting content, whether via analogue free-to-air TV and radio platforms or via DTT, DTH, the internet and streaming services through several mobile apps.”
“Therefore, the levy is linked to the public’s ability to access public broadcasting content rather than on the consumption of that content.”
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