South Africa revamps Broadcast Act
South Africa’s department of communications and digital technologies has proposed a revamp of the country’s Broadcasting Act in an effort to boost the powers of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
In a white paper published recently, the department said: “The Broadcasting Act will change to the South African Broadcasting Corporation Act and government will amend the legislation to reflect the public broadcasting service role to be played by the SABC in the growing audiovisual content services market in South Africa.”
The amendments will include changes to the TV licence fee section of the Act and proposes broadening the definition and the collection system for television licences and strengthening enforcement mechanisms and penalties for non-payment.
Although the current Broadcasting Act already allows the SABC to pursue much stricter punishments for people who fail to pay their licence fee, this is rarely enforced.
The Act reads: “Specifically, a person who fails to comply with any lawful demand made by an inspector is guilty of an offence in relation to each television set in respect of which the offence is committed and is liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding R500 in relation to each such offence or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
The SABC stated that TV licence fee cash collections were severely impacted during the coronavirus lockdown as its usual collection methods were closed. “Cash for all the revenue streams started to improve slightly in the month of June, the period where many restrictions were eased and suppliers were able to operate,” it said.
“However, owing to the economic climate that has had an effect on licence holders’ disposal of cash, compliance levels have not improved and are expected to steadily decline for the remainder of 2020.”
The SABC stated that TV licence fee collections are pursued on a monthly basis despite all the challenges faced. It added that there are plans to minimise the shortfall in cash collections.
“Licence holders who have not made payment during the renewal phase will be referred to debt collectors 60 days after the renewal date. This is the only recourse available to the SABC to pursue payments from non-compliant licence holders.”