The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is having a serious problem getting South Africans to pay for their TV licences.
In a recent presentation to parliament, the public broadcaster said that lockdown has severely limited its ability to collect TV licence fees through its usual avenues.
This is because a number of services ceased during the lockdown period – including the printing and mailing of correspondence to licence holders, as this was not seen as an essential service.
Payments at retail pay points also fell due to COVID-19 restrictions, and regulations prohibited the continuation of call centre operations.
“TV Licences’ cash for all the revenue streams started to improve slightly in the month of June, the period where many restrictions were eased and suppliers were able to operate,” the SABC said.
“However, owing to the economic climate which has had an effect on licence holders’ disposal of cash, compliance levels have not improved and are expected to steadily decline for the remainder of 2020.”
Non-compliance and debt collection
The SABC conceded that increased non-compliance by licence holders had hurt its revenue collection for the year.
Cash collections year to date (1 April – 31 July 2020) amount to R228.05 million with a shortfall of R166.99 million (42.3%). Year on year, cash revenue is R17.97 million (7.3%) less than the previous fiscal year.
The public broadcaster also said it has legal recourse against South Africans who do not pay their TV licences.
According to the Broadcasting Act of 1999, those who do not pay for their TV licences will face a fine not exceeding R500 or imprisonment of up to six months.
It said it does not pursue this recourse for a number of reasons, however.
“The abovementioned legislated recourse is available to the SABC however would be difficult and impractical to implement due to socio-economic and political factors,” the SABC said.
“Instead, the SABC utilizes the services of Debt Collection Agencies and attorneys to collect licence fees in arrears. This process is less harsh than the legislated provision.”
Plan to recover licence fees
The SABC also outlined its plans to recover licence fee revenue in South Africa – including new marketing campaigns.
It said it continually pursues TV licence fee collections on a monthly basis despite all the challenges faced.
Plans underway to minimise the shortfall in cash collections include marketing campaigns and settlement of outstanding fees.
The measures would be aimed at improving compliance with TV licence fee payments, which the SABC acknowledged as its biggest obstacle for growth.
“Lack of compliance with legislation remains the biggest impediment in successfully driving growth in the collection of televisions licence fees,” the SABC said.
The SABC has also previously considered increasing licence fees as a possible solution to the lack of revenue, but it did not include any mention of this in its report to parliament.
Currently, the price of a TV licence is still listed as R265.
MyBroadband asked the SABC about its previous plans to increase licence fees in South Africa, but it did not respond by the time of publication.
The full SABC presentation is below.