The Department of Communications wants broadcasters like MultiChoice to be obligated to collect TV licence fees from their subscribers.
This is feedback from Deputy Minister of Communications, Pinky Kekana during a recent Portfolio Committee on Communications meeting.
The SABC is facing severe financial challenges, and one of the ways to increase revenue is to improve TV licence fee collections.
SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon told Parliament only around 2.5 million of the 9.5 million TV licence holders on its database settled their TV licences last year.
“The SABC billed approximately R3 billion in TV licence fees per year, but was only able to collect around R791 million this year,” van Biljon said.
She added that the TV licence fee “evasion rate” – i.e. households which do not bother to pay for a licence – is 76%.
It is clear that a TV licence is a grudge purchase. The main reason people pay TV licence fees is that they cannot purchase a television without one.
This view is substantiated by the latest numbers. The SABC had around 401,000 new TV licence holders in 2019, but only around 68,000 of them renewed their TV licence a year later.
To address the problem of low compliance with TV licence fees, the Department of Communications wants private broadcasters to be forced to collect TV licence fees from their subscribers.
Kekana said South Africa’s Broadcasting Act already allows third parties to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the SABC.
“Broadcasters like MultiChoice should be obligated to collect TV licence fees,” she said.
It is, however, not only MultiChoice that is targeted. Kekana said they will be looking at other broadcasters as well, depending on their number of subscribers.
“We all have to say, lets put a threshold. If they have so many subscribers, you can be able to collect on behalf of the SABC,” she said.
The slide below, used by Kekana during her presentation, shows what the Department of Communications is considering to increase TV licence revenue collection.