Defending SABC as a cornerstone of democracy
2024: SABC bill fails on funding solution
SABC urgently needs a new funding model
In January 2024, OUTA made a submission to the Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies on the SABC Bill 2023, as part of the public comment process.
A strong, independent, properly funded public broadcaster is essential to democracy. This is particularly important in an election year. OUTA believes that it is of utmost importance to ensure that the SABC has strong legislation and policies that govern it to enable the entity to restore public trust and to guarantee editorial independence. The SABC’s funding is one of the most critical areas of the SABC’s model that has failed – and something the new SABC Bill unsuccessfully tries to address. Instead, the bill has effectively kicked the funding can down the road by not laying out any specific changes or proposals, but leaves the Minister of Communications and the Minister of Finance to sort out the funding problem. OUTA in its submission again urges the committee to consider a regular annual state grant for the SABC’s public broadcasting services, instead of flogging the dead TV licence fee collection model. This would avoid the irregular and disastrous last-minute bailouts but provide a more stable revenue stream particularly for the public broadcasting sector. OUTA also raised concern about issuing the bill before finalising the white paper.
The draft SABC Bill 2023 is here.
OUTA’s submission on the SABC Bill is here.
2024: Affordable internet is essential
In September 2023, OUTA made a formal submission to the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies on the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services Policy.
In this policy, 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. These proposed changes have the potential to affect citizens’ finances, access to information, and the quality of media services they receive.
OUTA's recommendations included emphasising the need for affordable internet access, to encourage digital participation and economic growth.
2021: SABC is crucial for democracy
In August 2021, OUTA made a submission on the Draft SABC Bill 2021 to the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, calling for the bill to be rewritten to address the SABC's funding crisis.
The TV licence system has failed but, if it is retained, the fees should be regarded as a tax and covered by a money bill, says OUTA in the submission.
“SABC’s annual report 2019/20 points out that only 2.5 million licence fees were paid, out of a database of 9.5 million licence holders, providing revenue of just R791 million. This is a significant failure which needs addressing,” says OUTA.
The television licence fees are meant solely to fund the SABC’s public broadcasting services, not the commercial services. However, OUTA raises concern that SABC does not separate these revenue and spending streams in the annual finances, as legally required.
OUTA also suggests considering a regular annual state grant for the SABC’s public broadcasting services. “This would avoid the irregular and disastrous last-minute bailouts but provide a more stable revenue stream particularly for the public broadcasting sector,” says OUTA.
The SABC Bill 2021 is here.
OUTA's submission on the bill is here.
2020: OUTA says scrap TV licences
On 23 November 2020, OUTA made a formal submission to the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies on the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audiovisual Content Services Policy (see ), which was published for public comment on 9 October 2020.
OUTA said the TV licence model has failed and must be scrapped. According to the SABC’s report for 2018/19, SABC collected payments from only 2.9 million of the 9.4 million TV licence holders on its database, resulting in a shortfall of R2 billion.
OUTA also recommended the department focus on providing more access to the internet and devices at lower cost to the public, as an enabler to society. Digital tools provide significant opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs, the youth and previously disadvantaged members of the public, to tap into local and global economies. This will make for a more vibrant business environment and may generate more taxpayers.
2016: OUTA calls for Hlaudi Motsoeneng to go
Tender irregularities and bad management
In 2016, then SABC Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and SABC Chief Financial Officer James Aguma were accused of irregularity over a tender worth R42 million. The tender was irregularly awarded to Vision View, for the refurbishment of a Rugby World Cup studio, did not follow due procurement process and resulted in an inflated price.
In December 2016, OUTA laid criminal charges against Hlaudi Motsoeneng for fraud, corruption and racketeering.
OUTA also lodged a complaint to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) against James Aguma for failure to follow good governance practice during the procurement process.
OUTA has also written to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) calling for it to investigate criminal charges against Motsoeneng for his role in corruption and wasteful expenditure at SABC, as well as lying about his qualifications when applying for a job at the SABC. He does not hold a matric certificate. His appointment was ratified by then Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi.