‘Privatize SABC, scrap TV licences’

Henry

Abolish TV licenses and privatize the SABC.

This is the crux of AfriForum’s comment on the Bill on the South African Broadcasting Corporation which was submitted to the portfolio committee on communication and digital technology on Monday.

The civil rights organization proposes these two solutions to the corruption, mismanagement and wasteful spending at the public broadcaster.

Ernst van Zyl, head of public relations at AfriForum, said on Monday that this organization proposes privatization as the main solution. But if the government rejects the proposal, the alternative is to do away with TV licences.

“In any case, the current dysfunctional status quo cannot continue,” says Van Zyl.

AfriForum argues in its written submission that privatization will revitalize the SABC and lead to better efficiency, higher program quality and financial stability. Privatization will also help fight corruption and mismanagement.

“Regarding the disposal of TV licences, AfriForum cited the sky-high rates of evasion and non-compliance, as well as the unjustifiable additional financial burden it places on poor households. AfriForum also tabled possible alternative sources of financing, including financing through partnerships, sponsorships and collaboration with private entities.”

Van Zyl says the government has had more than enough time to reverse the deterioration and sad state of affairs at the SABC. “It is time for an alternative – an approach that is not state-centred.

“TV licenses are a proven ineffective source of funding for the SABC. In 2022-23, the evasion rate of license payments stood at a sky-high 87%. TV licenses must therefore be done away with and replaced with an alternative financing model that really works.

“In the case of a privatized SABC, TV licenses will also naturally belong to the past.”

RNews previously reported that the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies published a draft white paper in July last year on the framework for audio and audiovisual content services and the security of online content. In the white paper, it is proposed, among other things, that a comprehensive review of the SABC’s financing model be carried out to ensure that the public broadcaster has sufficient money to fulfill its public mandate.

Proposals in this regard include a public broadcasting service (PBS) levy collected by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), as less than a fifth of viewers pay.

This and the proposal of a household levy are currently being considered in the SABC amendment bill.

The department is convinced that the proposed amendments will improve the collection system for TV licenses and strengthen enforcement mechanisms and penalties for non-payment.