The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has clarified its requests for new regulations that would require companies like MultiChoice and Netflix to collect TV Licence fees on its behalf.
The public broadcaster recently proposed that the definition of a TV licence be expanded and that pay-TV and streaming companies be engaged to assist in the collection of TV Licence fees.
It added that this would be similar to municipalities collecting traffic fines and motor vehicle licence discs.
Speaking in an interview with MyBroadband, SABC Head of TV Licences Sylvia Tladi confirmed the SABC was looking at improving compliance as well as expanding the definition of the television set to include devices such as smartphones.
“We are of the view that the regulation is outdated,” Tladi said.
“Bear in mind that the Broadcasting Act was last amended in 1999, whereas the TV licence regulations are 16 years old. In that time, there has been a significant development in the manner in which content is being consumed.”
“We cannot play in the media environment as much as everyone else is doing because the legislation is outdated,” she said.
Looking at obligations for MultiChoice and Netflix
Tladi said that the SABC was considering working with companies like MultiChoice and Netflix to improve compliance in terms of TV licence fees.
“We would like obligations to be placed on companies that sell set-top boxes, decoders, to be able to ensure that when people apply for a subscription, there needs to be a process where it can be validated that they do have a current TV Licence,” Tladi said.
She said that the motivation behind this is that customers do not buy a decoder on its own – they are going to connect it to a TV for which they should have a valid licence.
Tladi added that the SABC is also looking at ensuring TV Licence compliance through streaming services including Netflix.
“With regards to the likes of Netflix, what we are talking about here is streaming services, and what we are looking at is that where streaming services are available in the market and people are able to stream SABC’s content, there needs to be valid or paid-up TV Licence,” she said.
“We are not saying they should physically go out there and collect; we are looking at a process of making sure that there is compliance.”
She noted that the regulations of how this process will unfold will have to be drafted to outline a specific process.
“For example, instead of saying Netflix collect TV Licence fees, there are various ways of doing it. We can negotiate with the streaming service about a percentage of whatever people are streaming that is content which belongs to the SABC,” Tladi said.
She added that the SABC’s main priority in proposing regulation changes is to improve compliance.
“I think a part of that will include tying up loose ends where pay-TV operators are concerned as well as streaming services,” Tladi said.
It is important to note that these proposals by the SABC are currently in very early stages.
These potential changes to regulations must be debated before parliament and concretely defined before they are propagated further towards becoming law.
The SABC issued a statement on 29 October stating that it will make a detailed submission on the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audiovisual Content Services and invited public comments on the proposed changes to local broadcasting regulations.
“In finalising the SABC’s submission, the public broadcaster will take cognisance of the wide range of views expressed on the need for a licence fee or a public broadcasting levy,” the SABC said.
“The SABC calls on the public and all interested parties to also make their comments to the DCDT by 30 November 2020.”