SABC must explain how it’s going to make money — besides TV licences

Communications minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has given the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) until 30 June 2022 to explain how it plans on generating more revenue.

She also said her department is working with finance minister Enoch Godongwana concerning TV licence fee waivers during her budget vote speech on Wednesday, 18 May 2022.

“We have given the Board and management of the SABC until 30 June 2022 to submit a Plan on how the public broadcaster is going to commercialise and monetise the opportunities availed through the broadcast digital migration,” Ntshavheni said.

“The SABC has also been directed on the prioritisation and promotion of local content.”

Ntshavheni then said that her department was still working on TV licence fee waivers.

“On our part, we continue to advance policy and ministerial interventions that support the competitiveness and sustainability of the SABC,” Ntshavheni said.

“To this end and through the minister of finance, we secured the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] exemption for the SABC, and we continue to work with the minister of finance on the TV licence fee waivers.”

TV licence fees have been in the spotlight for some time, with the SABC and communications department proposing resolutions such as a public media levy and amnesty for those who have failed to pay.

The public media levy is the SABC’s latest proposal to resolve its struggle with non-paying TV licence holders. Households and businesses would have to pay the tax regardless of whether they watch SABC content or own a TV.

The SABC believes people should pay based on being able to access its content on any device. It said it would make exemptions for indigent households and offer discounts for pensioners.

In November 2021, Ntshavheni emphasised her support for an amnesty proposal for non-paying TV licence holders, saying it would give the SABC more breathing room to address its financials.

Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni

“We are awaiting the concurrence of the National Treasury so that we can take the matter to parliament to make sure that there is an amnesty on TV licences,” she said.

“We believe that if the SABC achieves this amnesty, they will be able to use the opportunity to improve their financial standing.”

Amnesty would mean that non-paying TV licence holders would no longer have to worry about back payments and penalty fees, which Ntshavheni believes could help collections.

Ntshavheni, during her speech, also explained how South Africa’s digital TV migration is creating jobs in South Africa.

“The analogue switch-off programme is supporting more than 987 installer companies and has created more than 14,800 jobs for locals, predominantly young installers,” she said.

“Completion of the broadcast digital migration further gives us an opportunity to trigger growth of the broadcasting and entertainment sector commonly known as the creatives industry.”

She did, however, emphasise the importance of completing the switch-off by 30 June 2022, as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has already given mobile operators the instruction to move off the spectrum by then.

Ntshavheni also briefly explained that her department, together with Sentech, was working to develop a digital distribution platform — DigiTech — which it will launch in the third quarter of 2022.

“DigiTech serves as a digital distribution service developed, maintained, and operated by the South African government. The platform allows users to browse and download apps developed across operating systems,” she said.

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SABC must explain how it’s going to make money — besides TV licences