(Extracted from the internet:

TV LICENSE: A License or Service Contract?

Payment of TV license fees is a statutory (legal) requirement in terms of an Act of Parliament, and does not confer any rights on a license holder to make demands of the SABC. The State – not license holders – prescribe the services to be rendered by the SABC.

A TV license is therefore not a “service contract” in terms of which the SABC has to provide all kinds of “services” to “subscribers” before the license fee becomes payable. A TV license is not a “product” of some kind, “purchased” by “consumers” on the basis of its offering better value than similar competing products. Like a vehicle license or a liquor, hunting or fishing license it is nothing more and nothing less than an official authorisation – in this case, the right to have in one′s possession and/or use a television set. Neither is the license fee “payment” for the SABC′s TV programmes, nor is there any exemption or “discount” because of dissatisfaction with the language dispensation or programmes on television, or on any other grounds whatsoever. There is also no ″discount″ for “watching very little TV.”

Viewer Demands

The Broadcasting Act makes no provision for the SABC having to meet license holders’ demands before the license fee becomes payable. In the same way that one cannot refuse to pay one’s motor vehicle license because of dissatisfaction with road or street conditions or for any other reason, TV license payments may not be withheld on ANY grounds.

What the Law Requires of the Public Broadcaster.

As South Africa′s national broadcaster the SABC is mandated to provide comprehensive broadcasting services (radio and television) for all South Africans, taking into account their ethnic, language, cultural and religious diversity. To this end, the SABC is legally obliged to –

  • inform;
  • educate;
  • entertain;
  • support and develop culture and education; and as far as is possible, ensure fair and equitable treatment for the various cultural groupings in the nation and the country.

The SABC′s obligations to give effect to this mandate include the following:

Broadcasting on radio and television in all official languages. A television license gives access to three terrestrial SABC TV channels and 19 radio stations – 11 of them are full-spectrum services, one for each of the country’s language groups. Since there are no radio licenses payable many people believe that radio is “free of charge”, but the cost of running the SABC′s radio stations amounts to millions of rand per year.

Providing everything from cultural, religious and music programmes to formal and informal education; local, national and international news, weather reports and other informational programmes; discussions and documentaries on topical issues such as economics, politics, world affairs, religion, moral, social and health issues, etc; comprehensive sports coverage; feature films, mini-series, sitcoms, local drama and other entertainment to suit the needs and tastes of its diverse audiences.

Making its services available countrywide, as widely as possible, with universal access as the ultimate aim. This means beaming its radio and television signals to small numbers of listeners/viewers in remote, sparsely populated areas.

The implication of the above is that the SABC is mandated to provide the kind of services that no private, profit-driven broadcaster would be willing to deliver, and to make radio and TV services available in areas where other broadcasters would not. In fact, all SABC broadcasting services have been made available via satellite – without license holders having been required to make any financial contribution towards this expensive development.

Payment of TV license fees does not constitute offer and acceptance in a commercial sense. The only effect that the issuing of a license has is to legalise the use of a TV set by a license holder. The Act does not allow license holders to withhold payment until and unless the SABC delivers TV programmes or other “services” to their satisfaction.

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