In January, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ Audio and Audio-visual Content Services published a policy framework that would allow the government to charge a TV licence fee for a variety of devices that aren’t TVs. The move came about because users can watch ‘TV’ through streaming channels on a myriad of non-TV devices these days.
The White Paper includes a variety of suggestions in line with the changing landscape of how humans consume content. This included a proposal that mobile devices capable of streaming shows and movies fall under a TV licence cost. But a recent proposal by the department outlined small changes to the White Paper that should let smartphone users off the hook.
TV licences for everyone!
It comes down to the definition of “broadcasting service” — that’s anything from streaming radio services through a browser to Youtube, Netflix, Showmax and even DStv Now.
Currently, South Africans need to produce a valid TV licence or obtain one when buying a TV capable of receiving radio signals. Under the proposed changes, people would need to do the same for things like tablets, laptops, TV boxes, internet products and decoders. Interestingly, the department has since removed smartphones, a gadget that was also present on that list a month ago.
According to the updated presentation, the department concluded that people using smartphones won’t be charged TV licence fees. It’s a welcome move, considering the number of humans in South Africa using smartphones far outweighs those that purchase TVs. However, the change doesn’t let any of the other possible devices off from (possibly) paying license fees.
The proposed legislation isn’t official yet, and South Africans have until 15 February to send the department their comments. Send your comments (via email) to the Acting Director-General, Department of Communications and Digital Technologies at aacsedtps.gov.za. Yes, that’s an email address and not a URL.