Monday, May 15, 2017

MultiChoice: No comment after SABC's acting CEO James Aguma says it wants DStv forced to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the SABC.

MultiChoice says it has no comment after acting SABC CEO James Aguma shocked last week when he told parliament that the SABC wants DStv to be forced to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the public broadcaster.

The financially underwater SABC keeps sinking and is awaiting yet another multi-mullion rand government bailout similar to the R1.47 billion government guaranteed Nedbank loan it got in 2009 when it came to the brink of financial collapse.

With only about a third of SABC TV licence holders actually paying their licence fees and the SABC projecting TV licence revenues to fall another 8% this year due to inept collecting operations, the embattled South African public broadcaster is looking at inventive ways to try and boost this income stream.

James Aguma told parliament's portfolio committee on communications last week that it wants South Africa's Broadcasting Act changed and wants commercial broadcasters "compelled" to "make sure that they can collect TV licences on behalf of the SABC".

It's not clear why the SABC as a public broadcaster wants private companies to collect its income.

SABC interim board member John Matisonn told parliament that the public broadcaster is looking at strategies to improve overall SABC TV licence fee collection.

"There are other strategies, and the one we mention is probably not the right time to go further, is the question of what to do with people who buy a TV set just for DStv or something else. There's a couple of strategies but I'm not sure this is the moment to explain them yet."

MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry says "MultiChoice has noted the remarks attributed to the acting group CEO of the SABC. We have no comment at this stage".

While MultiChoice doesn't have any comment at this stage, the SABC came up with the same plan in 2009 when the public broadcaster last came to the brink of collapse, saying it wanted to get MultiChoice's subscriber information to see who has a DStv subscription but not a valid SABC TV licence.

In July 2009 MultiChoice's then COO, Collins Khumalo told me the SABC should keep its hands off DStv subscribers' information and find other ways to fix its financial mess.

"We will never give our clients' information to anyone," MultiChoice said at the time.

"As a business we don't sell our database to anyone. We also don't give our database information to anyone. Our clients come to us and trust us with their information. We will resist attempts if we are expected to make that information available," MultiChoice said in 2009.

"Yes, the SABC is facing challenges to generate more income, but we don't believe we are the solution to their problems. I believe they can come up with other, more creative ways to solve their problems and improve their income," MultiChoice said at the time.

While the SABC has 146 staffers in its SABC TV licence fee division, the broadcaster outsourced the work to Lorna Vision that failed by more than 50% in the past year to meet its set target.

The SABC interim board told parliament it will be cancelling the contract as soon as possible.

The struggling SABC is deep in the red: After James Aguma in his previous parliamentary appearance in March said the SABC's finances are stable, he now admitted the broadcaster is in a financial crisis.

The SABC recorded a massive loss of R509 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 and its losses in the three quarters of 2016/2017 now stands at over R1 billion - its biggest loss in a financial year.