The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, has published the South African Broadcasting Corporation SOC Ltd Bill for public comment.
Notably, the Bill has kept the SABC’s TV licensing scheme rather than adopting a household levy, and it does not expand the requirement of a TV licence beyond buying television sets.
However, it does not pronounce on whether private subscription broadcasters such as DStv and Netflix will have to collect TV licenses on the SABC’s behalf.
The Bill outlines the penalties payable to those who evade paying their TV licence fee and allows the SABC to appoint inspectors with the powers to enter any property to execute their duties.
Cabinet approved the Bill to be published for public comment at the end of June.
This followed several presentations from the state broadcaster to Parliament regarding alternative ways to fund the SABC and collect TV licence fees.
The SABC and Department of Communications and Digital Technologies presented two competing models to Parliament to reform how the broadcaster is funded. These were:
- A new tax referred to as a “household levy“.
- Keeping the TV licence, expanding it to include smartphones and computers, and forcing private broadcasters to collect TV licence fees on the SABC’s behalf.
MultiChoice has criticised the proposal to force it to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the SABC and has voiced its support of a device-independent, tech-neutral household levy.
“The household levy is founded on the fact that every single South African household has the realistic ability to access public broadcasting content, whether via analogue free-to-air TV and radio platforms or via DTT, DTH, the Internet and streaming services through several mobile apps,” the SABC said.
While the Bill favours the TV licence over the household levy, it does not say anything about how the TV licence will be collected.
Instead, it states that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa will be responsible for making regulations that govern TV licences in consultation with the SABC and the Minister.
It may make regulations on the following:
- The television licence fee, payable for any television licence issued, including the manner of payment and the collection thereof, penalties, and ancillary costs.
- The period of validity of a television licence.
- The manner of determining fees of a television licence.
- The purpose for which and the place where you may use a television set.
- Different categories of television licences which any user of a television set may be required to possess.
- The duty to keep, maintain and furnish records and information, including a duty to supply the SABC with such records and information as may be prescribed.
- Exemptions from the obligation to have a TV licence.
- The transferability of a television licence.
In addition, the Bill proposes that SABC should be allowed to appoint anyone as an authorised inspector.
Authorised inspectors may enter upon any land to do their jobs, so long as they do not try and gain entry into a home after dark without a warrant or the occupier’s permission.
Anyone found guilty of not paying their dues can be liable for the following penalties:
- In addition to their regular TV licence fee, a penalty equal to double the amount of the applicable prescribed licence fee
- If you can prove that you have used your television set for less than a year, the penalty is 10% of the TV licence fee for every month you did not pay.
A dealer who sells or alienates a television set to a person who doesn’t have a TV licence and who is not exempted from having one is liable to pay a penalty of between R3,000 and R10 000 for each television set.
In addition to the penalties above, the Bill also proposes to make it a criminal offence to fail to pay your TV licence or sell a TV to someone without a TV licence.
If convicted, you can face an additional fine of R500 for each offence and imprisonment for up to six months.