Every year I have a little conversation with myself about whether to pay the SABC’s absurd annual licence fees for owning a television. It’s not a lot of money I tell myself, and I am legally (and therefore ethically) required to pay it. This is despite me not being a consumer of the SABC in any way.
Like many South Africans, I haven’t been a SABC TV watcher for decades. Like many South Africans (who can afford it) my primary news and entertainment source has been DStv. Since Netflix and Showmax arrived and streaming services became the de facto form of viewing, I have subscribed to those.
Yet every year I have to pay for the SA Broadcasting Corporation’s upkeep.
There was a time – many decades ago – when these licence fees had a real point. They supported the SABC when it was the only broadcaster in the country. Those days are long gone now. Unless you have no other option, most people find their news and entertainment elsewhere.
If the SABC was more like Telkom and actually was a going concern with an actual business plan, then I might feel compelled to support it. But the SABC is its own worst enemy – or more accurately, attempts by the government to control the editorial output are the real enemy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa waited eight months to appoint the current board. This caused its already stuttering finances to fall through the floor.
Once again, our taxes – TV licences are just another tax – are being squandered by the ANC – which pursues its own agenda at the expense of the country’s. This time Ramaphosa was seemingly trying to avoid appointing the SABC’s former head of news Phathiswa Magopeni, who has shown herself to be independently minded.
It’s difficult to work out if that was Ramaphosa’s reasoning because our non-practising president is so mute and passive, that it’s hard to know what he is really thinking. He certainly isn’t converting that into action.
Read More: SABC TV licence madness continues
This is the same broadcaster that #PresidunceZuma appointed that buffoon Hlaudi Motsoeneng as its boss – only because he was a pliable minion who could be controlled. He was also an outrageous narcissist who spoke about himself in the third person. His ill-fated 70% local content plan, which saw the SABC’s radio stations haemorrhage advertising revenue, is one of the major reasons the public broadcaster is in so much trouble. As was his sunshine journalism instruction – where coverage of protests against the lack of service delivery was banned.
The SABC is broken because successive ANC governments broke it. Demanding that we citizens still pay for this dysfunctional service is just absurd. It’s even more absurd that the SABC is still used by the governing party to push its election message. Fikile Mbalula, the daffy duck of SA politics, complained bitterly that the SABC caused the ANC to lose so much ground in the 2020 local elections. Let’s also not forget how it was manipulated by the National Party under Apartheid.
The SABC isn’t so much a public broadcaster as a state broadcaster – fulfilling the ruling party’s wishes and not the public. Why should we still be paying for this?
This column first appeared in the Financial Mail