Are we surprised that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is throwing another idea out there to become financially feasible? No. No, we are not. After the whole ‘get a TV licence for all your streaming devices‘ idea last year? Little surprises us anymore.
But alas, a new TV licence scheme is being introduced, according to the SABC. The idea is one of several being bandied about by the broadcaster. It’s not exactly an unfamiliar sight, either.
No more TV licence
SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini proposed in a presentation to Parliament on 2 March that the current system should be replaced with what he calls a “public media levy”. The levy would be administered to every household and business in the country. Whether they own a TV or not.
The SABC argues that tying a TV licence to ownership of a television set is an outdated concept. (cough — so are ads interrupting movies — cough). The ‘levy’ would apply to all South African households capable of accessing SABC’s content. Whether they do or not would be immaterial. Simply having the capability would be enough to impose the levy.
This does go some way towards explaining the broadcaster’s deal with TelkomONE, to stream its content on the platform. At the time, we (cynically) pointed out that the move would allow the platform to claim TV licenses are essential for streaming-capable devices. Unfortunately, this time it looks like we were correct. If SABC’s offerings are available, and your device can access it, then you’re on the hook. Whether you choose to do so makes no matter to the folks hoping to collect the
Doing the SABC’s homework
Makhathini, when announcing this brilliant plan to force the country to fund the SABC whether it wants to or not, also looked to offload much of the administration from the state broadcaster. He said that other players in the space should help to collect this levy, by which he means he wants Multichoice to do it.
South Africa’s premiere subscription TV service has come out against this in the past. It’s not the first time the SABC has suggested something like this. Multichoice has been against it from the start. There are a few reasons for that. DStv’s parent company has invoked adherence to POPIA, but it’s also likely that it just doesn’t want to take the reputational hit sure to follow if it starts acting as an enforcer for the SABC’s attempted mugging.
Multichoice isn’t opposed to the idea of the public media levy in practice. It just believes that collection should be handled by the SABC or government. Presently, the SABC does a dismal job of this. Current figures show that some 82% of TV owners evade paying their TV licenses. If the broadcaster can swing that around so that every household pays a compulsory sum (possession of a smartphone being enough to qualify one for inclusion), that’s a serious cash injection for the SABC. How they’ll use it, though, is another matter entirely.