If the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies and the SABC wants to use third-parties like MultiChoice and Netflix to collect TV licence fees, the Broadcasting Act will have to be amended.
That’s the word from Ian Jacobsberg, the director for corporate, mergers & acquisitions, and competition at Tabacks Attorneys.
This means that an amendment bill would need to be drafted, released for public comment, updated with feedback from the public, then brought before the National Council of Provinces and National Assembly for approval. After that, it can go to the President for assent.
This would take a year or more to finalise.
Jacobsberg said that given how controversial the matter is, the proposal might result in protracted public debate and even court challenges.
“Once the [Broadcasting Act] has been amended, regulations would still need to be passed, designating the precise entities, or at least categories of entities, that would be made responsible for collections,” said Jacobsberg.
Regulations must also spell out the details of how the collection process would work, and how the designated entities would be required to account to the SABC.
“These draft regulations may, in turn, be subject to the same procedures [as the draft amendment bill],” Jacobsberg said.
In other words, it would be a year or more to amend the Broadcasting Act, and another year or more to pass the relevant regulations.
Department of Communications believes the Broadcasting Act doesn’t need to be amended
Jacobsberg’s view that the Broadcasting Act must first be amended is at odds with the opinion of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.
The Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Pinky Kekana, stated during a recent Portfolio Committee on Communications meeting that the 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.
Kekana said the amount of money broadcasters must collect will depend on their number of subscribers.
However, Jacobsberg told MyBroadband that the provision that gave the SABC the authority to delegate TV licence fee collection to third parties was deleted from the Broadcast Act in 2003.
This was section 27(7) of the Act and it used to state: “The Corporation may delegate the collection of the payment of television license fees to other persons”.
A 2002 amendment to the Broadcasting Act completely revamped section 27 and this provision has been deleted.
“For the SABC to require other service providers to collect license fees on its behalf, the Act would have to be amended to incorporate the same or a similar provision,” Jacobsberg stated.