Most South Africans are not paying their TV license fees, but this can change if new legislation is approved to increase compliance.
This is feedback from SABC chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon, who was addressing Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications.
Van Biljon previously said only around 2.5 million of the 9.5 million TV licence holders on its database paid for licenses.
The SABC billed approximately R3 billion in TV licence fees per year, but was only able to collect around R791 million.
The TV licence fee “evasion rate”, where households who do not bother to pay for a licence, is 76%.
This should not come as a surprise. Incompetence, maladministration, and corruption at the SABC mean many people refuse to fund the state broadcaster.
So dire is the situation that the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has called for the scrapping of TV licences, arguing this funding model for the SABC has failed.
The Department of Communications (DoC) and SABC are, however, doubling down on this funding model.
To address the low TV license compliance rate, they want South Africans to pay TV licences for laptops, tablets, and DStv decoders.
They are also floating the idea of forcing MultiChoice to collect TV licence fees as part of a reform of public broadcasting laws in South Africa.
The SABC and DoC have also proposed the idea to replace the current TV licence system with a device-independent, tech-neutral household levy for public broadcasting.
“The household levy is founded on the fact that every single South African household has the realistic ability to access public broadcasting content,” the SABC said.
This can be via analogue free-to-air TV and radio platforms or via DTT, DTH, the Internet, and streaming services through mobile apps.
These legislative changes, Van Biljon said, can help to improve TV licence compliance rates and strengthen the SABC’s financial position.