The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a petition to oppose the government’s plans to extend TV licence fees to streaming services like Netflix and Showmax.
In the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020, the Department of Communications proposes broadening the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online broadcasting services.
This means South Africans may have to pay more for their streaming services in future, independent of whether they watch it on a TV, a computer, or a phone.
The law currently states that consumers must pay a TV licence fee for viewing “broadcasting services”, which include subscription services like DSTV.
When you buy a TV, regardless of whether you watch SABC content on it or not, you must pay a licence fee for “broadcasting services”.
As it currently stands, a “broadcasting service” is limited to content viewed on a TV set, and excludes smartphones, tablets, and computers.
This can, however, change if the proposal in the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy Framework is accepted.
The DA strongly opposed the licence fee on streaming services, saying it is an underhanded attempt by the ANC to force South Africans to use their hard-earned money to bail out the SABC.
“It is ridiculous that the government wants to punish South Africans to use their hard-earned money to sustain an entity which the ANC, through their incessant political interference, destroyed,” the DA said.
“The broadcaster must find creative ways to self-sustain and break-even without making South Africans fork out any more money.”
The petition is available on the DA website.
Scrap TV licence fees in South Africa – Outa
The DA’s campaign follows the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (Outa’s) call to scrap TV licences altogether.
TV licence revenue declined by 18% year-on-year to R791 million, which the broadcaster said was due to the delayed use of debt collection agencies in this period.
Instead of trying to improve TV licence collections, Outa said the system should be scrapped completely.
“Incompetence, maladministration, and corruption at the SABC should not become a burden to successful private industries or South Africans,” it said.
“Any tax or levy that fails to achieve its purpose due to failed administration or unenforceable mechanisms should be closed down.”
It added that the proposed regulations have far-reaching implications for South Africans, including that owning a smartphone or tablet would require them to have a TV licence.
Outa added that content from on-demand services, like Netflix, would be regulated to ensure South African content is given airtime or 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.
He added that whichever way you look at it, citizens once again have to pay for government’s incompetence and failure to run state-owned enterprises like the SABC.
“We fear that this will be another method of getting more money from citizens to fund the corrupt,” Kleynhans said.