The ANC wants taxpayers fund the SABC through a “household levy” which every home in South Africa would be forced to pay, reports the Sunday Times.
The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) included this in its draft resolutions from a meeting which took place this past week.
The proposal reportedly claims that the government should introduce a special levy to be paid by every South African household – regardless of how they consume content.
“Every household is assumed to have a television. It does not matter whether you watch it or not,” said NEC chair Nkenke Kekana.
He reportedly argued that the levy would not be a lot of money for each household, but would be a significant overall collection for the SABC.
This idea will be discussed further in an NEC meeting to take place next month, and if it is agreed upon, would be taken to the ANC’s national general council (NGC) in May – where it would become government policy if accepted.
The levy would reportedly use a similar model to current indirect taxes like the fuel levy – which funds the Road Accident Fund (RAF) – and electricity tariffs used to help Eskom.
Shut down TV licences – Outa
This news follows the SABC reporting a net loss of R511 million for the 2019/2020 financial year.
TV licence revenue dropped by 18% in this period, and as a result of this battle, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has called for traditional TV licences to be scrapped completely.
“Any tax or levy that fails to achieve its purpose due to failed administration or unenforceable mechanisms should be closed down,” it argued.
It argued that instead of trying to increase revenue from TV licences, the SABC should review its business and revenue models.
Key to this, argued Outa, is ensuring the SABC’s content makes it a financially viable broadcaster in its own right.
It also suggested that the government should decide how much of the SABC’s funding needs to come from levies or general tax, and where oversight of this will lie.
Outa was also critical of reports that content from services like Netflix would be regulated to ensure South African content is given enough airtime – or else face being blacklisted.
“This is a blatant rebuttal of freedom of choice, the democratisation of information and universal access,” said Outa executive manager Julius Kleynhans.
Regulating on-demand services
The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) recently reaffirmed why it believes there should be a 30% local content quota on streaming services like Netflix.
It has labelled this idea as “one of the most important changes” and “one of the most positive policy proposals”.
“The spirit behind this whitepaper is to ensure a future for the South African broadcasting sector,” said DCDT chief director of broadcasting policy Collin Mashile.
“What this means is that we are trying to create opportunities for the production and creative industry sector.”
The DCDT has received close to 20,000 comments so far, and in line with requests from various stakeholders, has extended the deadline for comments on the policy proposal to 15 February 2021.