Forget TV licences or levies and fund SABC directly from the fiscus instead

The SABC Bill doesn’t provide a good solution to the thorny question of how to fund the public broadcaster, but OUTA believes a regular grant from government is a big part of the answer

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22/09/2021 10:22:12

Forget TV licences or levies and fund SABC directly from the fiscus instead

The SABC is a vital public service and should be funded accordingly, OUTA told Parliament’s public hearings on the SABC Bill on Wednesday.

“We are advocating for the SABC to be funded with a government subsidy, so we don’t need TV licences which are uncollectable,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA Executive Director, who made the submission.

The Bill relies on the existing methods of funding SABC. The SABC struggles to collect the television licence money and outsources this. There has also been a suggestion that a household levy be implemented and collected by MultiChoice. OUTA believes both are problematic and have limited reach.

A regular annual grant to SABC from the fiscus could be used to cover at least part of the SABC’s costs. It will provide a more stable revenue stream and, in conjunction with good governance and management, will avoid the irregular and disastrous last-minute bailouts.

Such a regular grant could be funded by cutting wasteful expenditure in other programmes, for example, moving some of the national and provincial funding for political parties, justified as support for democracy, to the SABC, which would provide broader support for democracy.

If television licences are to be retained, OUTA believes these are effectively another tax and should be treated as such, through a money bill passed by Parliament rather than a decision on the licence fee made by a single minister.

OUTA also believes that the regulatory environment should be changed to strengthen SABC’s commercial sector, which subsidises the public broadcasting sector to some extent.

OUTA agrees with the SABC that regulations like the “Must Carry” regulations which “oblige the SABC to provide all its three top free-to-air channels to subscription broadcasters for free (since 2008)”, the “Sports Broadcasting Regulations which did not protect the public broadcaster from anti-competitive bundling of rights and unfair sublicensing criteria (since 2004)” and the “failure by the regulator to implement any limitations on advertising on subscription broadcasters as intended by the ECA [Electronic Communications Act] in 2005” should be changed.

More information

More on OUTA’s submission is here.

A soundclip with comment from Advocate Stefanie Fick is here.

Picture: OUTA