The government is considering significant changes to media and content service policies. These changes could influence citizens’ access to content, taxation, and the state of media services in the country. OUTA made a comprehensive submission on the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy (AAVCS) to the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies. Here’s what you should know. 

OUTA’s submission aims to address critical issues in the proposed policy framework, safeguard taxpayers, and promote responsible governance. We also want to ensure that citizens are informed about proposed changes in media policy that could affect them, since we believe in the importance of transparency in policies and their potential effects on citizens’ daily lives.

Key points to know

Impact on citizen’s wallets: Some proposals may lead to increased costs for citizens. This could affect their monthly expenses, especially if they rely on mobile internet and streaming services. “Instead of seizing the opportunities for growth in the sector, the government is seizing opportunities to make more money,” says OUTA’s submission.

State of our media: The policy changes aim to regulate the media landscape, but there are concerns about the ability to manage these changes effectively, given past issues with state-owned enterprises.

Digital opportunities: The government should focus on providing affordable internet access to promote economic growth and digital participation among citizens.

OUTA recommendations

OUTA believes that policies should prioritise citizens’ interests and well-being.

Affordability: Policy changes should not burden citizens with additional costs.

Effective governance: Policy must be implemented transparently and accountably to avoid financial mismanagement.

Citizen participation: Encourage citizens to engage in discussions and let their voices be heard regarding these important policy changes.

Digital inclusion: Advocate for affordable internet access to encourage digital participation and economic growth.

“There is a need for a public broadcaster and some of its funding needs to come from levies or general tax allocations, however, the question is how much and why and where does oversight of this lie. The best practice would be that SABC becomes financially viable as a broadcaster of choice and not a necessity. The notion of switching the failed TV licence revenue mechanism to other commercial broadcasters or live streaming entities or adding a tax to the sale of electronic devices is also not a solution in our view, as it has other unintended consequences and these items are already taxed through business taxes, VAT and import duties. OUTA argues that the SABC needs to find a new funding model,” says OUTA’s submission.

OUTA also believes that there should be a focus on giving citizens wider access to the internet at a more affordable price for data “so that we can see more innovative and entrepreneurial efforts that can participate in both a local- and an international market. Thus, we believe the government should embrace digital disruption as an enabling tool that can create more small businesses and entrepreneurs to become contributing taxpayers in the future.”

Rachel Fischer, OUTA’s Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager, emphasises that OUTA is not opposed to the white paper and supports the SABC keeping up with global trends and modernising its processes. “But we have concerns about the transition, tax implications, and SABC’s ability to function as a state-owned entity.”

OUTA is dedicated to advocating for responsible governance and ensuring responsible use of public funds. We are here to keep citizens informed and ensure that policies are in their best interest. We would like to encourage citizens to stay engaged and let their voices shape the future of media policies in South Africa.