The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, recently published the SABC Bill for public comment. The new law contains wording that allows TV licence inspectors to enter your home without a warrant.
Inspectors may only enter a property before dark if they have a warrant or have the permission of the resident to enter.
This provision provoked anger among South Africans, but the SABC has told MyBroadband that TV licence inspectors will not be knocking on people’s doors anytime soon.
It also said that the law is nothing new, as the existing Broadcasting Act already allows the SABC to appoint inspectors with much the same powers.
Their work being — confirming whether there is a TV set on the premises, updating the register of TV users, and confirming the TV Licence status of the homeowner.
This means that TV Licence inspectors have had the right to access the homes of South Africans without a warrant or permission for more than two decades.
Some may regard this regulation as an overstep, particularly given that in countries like the UK, licence inspectors must present a warrant issued by a magistrate before they are allowed to enter a citizen’s home.
Fortunately for those concerned about the implication of this power, the SABC has not exercised its right to appoint inspectors for quite some time.
SABC Group executive for corporate affairs and marketing Gugu Ntuli told MyBroadband that the broadcaster had not used TV Licence inspectors in more than 10 years.
“Whilst the Broadcasting Act allows for the appointment and utilisation of inspectorate services, this process is extremely costly for the organisation,” Ntuli said.
Ntuli’s comments recall those of OUTA Wayne Duvenhage, who previously wrote that it costs the SABC “more in telephone calls and inspectors, legal notices and demands than it does to secure the R265 annual licence fee”.
Many MyBroadband readers pointed out that the regulation provided a prime opportunity for scammers or thieves to pose as inspectors and enter a home with ease.
Their concerns were not unfounded.
In 2018 and 2019, the SABC issued warnings after victims reported that robbers in Johannesburg were masquerading as TV licence inspectors to get easy access to properties.
Ntuli said that this problem was previously addressed through extra measures to safeguard homeowners and the integrity of the inspection process.
“We are of the view that the risks were extensively mitigated,” she stated.
Among the requirements for inspectors were official uniforms and identity cards.
“The homeowners were provided with SABC contact details to verify and confirm the inspector’s details.”
“Their activities and presence were also supported by messages on our radio and TV channels,” Ntuli added.
Based on the feedback from the SABC, if you are approached by people claiming to be TV licence inspectors, you should contact the police or SABC.