SABC slaps paying TV Licence holders in the face

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is attempting to encourage people who aren’t paying their TV Licence to settle their accounts with the possibility of winning a holiday worth R300,000.

To be eligible for the prize, you must pay your TV licence between 1 September and 1 December 2023.

A MyBroadband reader shared the SMS they received about the competition.

“Chance to win a fully paid holiday worth R300K. Pay [amount redacted]… on TVLic [number redacted] via,” the SMS reads.

“Enter the competition on”

The above link doesn’t work, but this is due to how the SMS is formatted. Deleting the part after the last slash (‘/’) brings up a website with instructions for the giveaway.

“This competition is eligible for SA citizens over 18 Years of age, that have not yet paid or renewed their TV Licence, or those wishing to register for a new TV Licence,” it states.

Once you have paid your TV Licence, you can enter the competition using your TV Licence number on the website.

Winners will receive an all-expenses paid trip to a Bundesliga soccer match or Coachella.

MyBroadband asked the SABC for confirmation and further information, but it didn’t respond to our inquiry.

TV licence fee evasion has been an ongoing problem for the public broadcaster, with avoidance rates ranging from 69% in 2019 to 87% reported in 2023.

TV licence avoidance rates from 2018 to 2023 were as follows:

  • 2018 — 72%
  • 2019 — 69%
  • 2020 — 81%
  • 2021 — 82%
  • 2022 — 82%
  • 2023 — 87%

To combat this, the SABC has tried to implement several initiatives to encourage its customers to pay, including scare tactics, rewards programmes, and now an all-expenses paid overseas trip.

In December 2022, a bid document revealed that the public broadcaster was looking for service providers to build and manage a TV Licence rewards programme.

The SABC said TV Licences need to “reconnect and engage” with consumers in an “innovative and relevant” way that adds value to their TV Licence purchase.

“The programme will become an extension of the TV Licenses product offering with a natural fit that also builds a relationship with our core clientele, domestic television license holders and SABC audiences,” the document said.

Wayne Duvenage, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse CEO

This wasn’t the first time the broadcaster had tried to get a rewards programme off the ground. It published a similar bid document in December 2020.

The SABC — or, more specifically, its debt collectors — have also used scare tactics to encourage non-compliant TV licence holders to pay.

In August 2022, a MyBroadband reader shared an SMS they received regarding their outstanding TV licence payments.

“HC requires immediate attention to the full settlement of [amount redacted]…”, the SMS read, leading the reader to believe that the SABC had implemented High Court legal action against them.

However, it’s important to note that the SABC uses the debt collection agency Hanh Collections, to which the “HC” acronym could have referred.

This raised the question of who the text message was referring to and why it didn’t mention the High Court or Hanh Collections to avoid confusion.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) told MyBroadband that orders from the High Court are typically served personally by a Sheriff of the court.

“Outa is aware that many South Africans are receiving threatening SMSs with misleading information about what can (and will) be done to them if they don’t pay,” it said.

In July 2023, Outa told MyBroadband that non-paying licence holders shouldn’t be too fazed about possible legal action being taken against them for continuing to ignore messages from the SABC’s debt collectors.

The civil action organisation said it does not know of any case in which a defaulter was prosecuted for non-payment.

“It is just too small an amount to enter into legal challenges that may even backfire on them,” said Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage.

“Threats of prosecution are merely threats that I believe the public is aware that the SABC and the debt collectors will not be able to carry out.”

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SABC slaps paying TV Licence holders in the face