Why the SABC’s TV licence system goes offline so often

Two MyBroadband readers recently raised concerns regarding their TV licence fees when payments they made to the SABC did not reflect on its systems.

While both TV licence holders experienced slow-downs or strange error messages on the SABC website, they ultimately received confirmation that their payments were successful.

One of the people reported receiving a very strange error message which proclaimed in large text: “Payment Failed”, followed by the explanation: “Your payment was successful but there was an error updating your account balance. Your account balance will be updated within the next two hours.”

However, a day or two after paying their fees, they received an email from the SABC stating that they need to pay their TV licences.

This raised concerns that something had gone awry with the SABC’s TV licensing system.

Strange TV licence failure message. Payment succeeded but won't reflect for two hours.

Situation normal

MyBroadband asked the SABC for feedback regarding the problems with its TV licence system, and the broadcaster stated that these issues were a normal occurrence.

“The TV Licences system experiences intermittent system unavailability and timeouts as a result of the increased demand,” SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo told MyBroadband.

“The mainframe system has been tuned and optimized to its maximum capability and a dedicated team has been assigned to monitor and address system failures as and when they occur.”

Seapolelo said that the SABC is working on a solution to remedy the situation permanently.

“The SABC is in the process of upgrading the mainframe capacity as well as upgrading the website payment platform to the latest available technology.”

Seapolelo explained that payments are updated overnight into the TV licensing system.

“The batch distribution of tax invoices are scheduled and effected where a payment is not reflected in a TV Licence account. We urge licence holders to check the date of the invoice against the date of the payment,” Seapolelo said.

She warned that if a payment was made without the correct reference number it will not reflect in the TV Licence account.

Licence holders who have made payments should also provide the SABC with their proof of payment for allocation. These may be referred to [email protected].

MyBroadband asked the SABC if it still uses a 1990s-era mainframe for its TV licensing system or if it uses something more modern, but the company declined to comment, citing security reasons.

“As a precautionary measure in safeguarding the security of the SABC’s mainframe, we are not in a position to divulge this information,” Seapolelo said.

Four days after first paying his TV licence, one of the MyBroadband readers who reported this issue received an SMS which thanked him for paying.

When he logged into the TV licence website, his payment correctly reflected on his account.

Now read: SABC plans to add more live sport – including boxing, tennis, and athletics

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Why the SABC’s TV licence system goes offline so often