The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is not required to supply an invoice or thirty days’ notice for payment of TV licences.
Group executive for corporate affairs and marketing, Gugu Ntuli, recently told Channel24 that the SABC isn’t required to give anyone thirty days’ notice to pay a SABC TV Licence.
Independent TV critic, Thinus Ferreira, asked the SABC about its obligations in this regard after the broadcaster sent him a notice on 26 August that he needed to pay his annual TV licence by month-end.
The SABC’s notice did not include an invoice, Ferreira reported.
“TV licence fees are payable in advance; therefore, your account needs to be renewed by no later than 31 August 2021. The amount payable on or before this date is R265,” the notice said.
When asked about the short notice and lack of invoice, the SABC said that the regulations governing TV licences do not require it to provide 30-days notice.
“The SABC takes into account key regulations when the corporation issues the renewal notices to customers,” the state broadcaster said.
“Regulation 24 of the TV Licence regulations published in the Government Gazette No 25959 of 28 January 2004 requires the SABC to send renewal notices to licence holders.”
However, it does not prescribe a 30-day notice period.
“Regulation 17 of the TV Licence regulations stipulate that all TV Licence fees are payable in advance,” the SABC added.
MyBroadband contacted the SABC for comment, but it did not respond by the time of publication.
Cabinet recently approved the SABC Bill for public comment.
The Bill proposes changes to the SABC’s current finance plan, including their TV licencing system.
Prior to the publication of the Bill, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies and the SABC proposed two different approaches to fund the state broadcaster.
They also suggested that if the second model is selected and TV licences kept, that private broadcasters should collect licence fees on the SABC’s behalf.
Yolanda van Biljon, SABC CFO, indicated earlier this year that only 24% of households are paying TV licence fees.
To curb this level of evasion, the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies believes private broadcasters like DStv operator MultiChoice should be required to collect the fees on the SABC’s behalf.
However, MultiChoice has resisted the suggestion.
“Our position is very clear. We can’t be held responsible for collecting money on behalf of a government entity,” the group CEO of MultiChoice, Calvo Mawela, said during an investor call in June.
MultiChoice rejected the proposal based on several concerns, including the fact that the SABC is a direct competitor of DStv, making it impossible to justify collecting fees on their behalf.
MultiChoice also suggested that the proposal may be in contravention of POPIA as DStv is required to protect its customers’ privacy.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and MultiChoice support the idea of using a household levy tax to collect the funds the SABC requires.
“The mere fact that a person has to pay a fee for having a television set whether it is used or not amounts to a tax or levy,” Outa said.
“One might still argue that where the set is used, there is a benefit which accrues to the possessor, but to pay for mere possession is akin to paying duty tax.”
Outa also suggested considering a regular annual state grant for the SABC’s public broadcasting services.
“This would avoid the irregular and disastrous last-minute bailouts but provide a more stable revenue stream, particularly for the public broadcasting sector,” said Outa.