by Thinus Ferreira
MultiChoice is adamant that the struggling South African public broadcaster's ongoing problems with trying to collect SABC TV Licence fees is a problem of the SABC's own doing, with MultiChoice that says as a private pay-TV operator it is opposed against plans to tack on SABC TV Licence fees on DStv subscriptions and simply won't do it.
With only 24% - a falling percentage - of TV households still bothering to pay for a SABC TV Licence, the South Africa public broadcaster and the country's department of communications and digital technologies, are desperate to try and dig the struggling SABC out of its financial black hole through finding new additional income streams.
Part of the aggressive new plan contained in draft legislation from communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, is to enlarge the fishing net of available SABC TV Licence revenue beyond the public broadcaster's own struggling collection fees division.
Changes to legislation would make private companies like pay-TV providers, as well as local and global video streaming services with a presence in South Africa, responsible for ensuring that their customers have a valid TV licence or to tack it on as a fee - whether those consumers watch the SABC or not.
Owners of tablets and laptops will also be forced to have and pay a SABC TV Licence whether they watch or consumer SABC content or not.
Yolande van Biljon, SABC CFO, told parliament in February that the SABC sits with a massive 76% SABC TV Licence "evasion rate", meaning that 76% of South African TV households that the public broadcaster are aware of and send a SABC TV Licence bill to, do not bother to pay their annual licence fee.
Only 24% are still paying with the rate that keeps declining as the country's overall TV watching universe expands.
Besides the SABC's TV Licence database there are millions more South African TV households with one or more TV sets that the SABC is not aware of and that don't have licences.
Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, in the pay-TV operator's investors' call on Friday following the release of its latest annual financial report for the year ending 31 March 2021, responded to a question regarding SABC TV Licence fees and said that MultiChoice "can't be collecting for the SABC".
"Our position is simply very clear: We can't be held responsible for collecting money on behalf of the SABC. The SABC itself needs to find a way to collect such monies."
"We further made it clear that we think this is an old way of thinking around a public service mandate. There are much more better ways of [finding] public service funding that we have seen all over the world where people have moved away from a device into a public service contribution wherein tax payers are able to contribute a little bit and the public broadcaster is able to survive," Calvo Mawela said.
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