Thursday, November 26, 2020

Time running out for South African video consumers to say if they want DStv and Netflix to add and collect SABC TV Licence fees with their payments.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africans have until Monday, 30 November at 16:00 to give their opinion on whether they want the country's laws changed to force pay-TV services like MultiChoice (DStv) and StarTimes (StarSat), as well as streaming services like Netflix SA, Showmax and others to tack on a SABC TV Licence fee on behalf of the struggling South African public broadcaster.

South Africa's department of communications and digital technologies wants to change the existing legislation to force pay-TV operators as well as local and international video streaming services like Netflix to collect SABC TV Licence fees from consumers on behalf of the SABC even though they are private companies and services.

South African consumers will have to pay this SABC TV Licence fee even if they watch Netflix through a smartphone, Showmax on a tablet or stream DStv on a laptop and are not watching any SABC content.

The financially struggling South African public broadcaster that once again suspended its retrenchment process due to political and trade union pressure made a net loss of R511 million for its 2019/2020 financial year and is on track to make a loss in excess of R1.2 billion in the next financial year.

Less than a third of South African TV households that the SABC is aware of as having a SABC TV Licence still bothers to pay it.

The proposal to shift the burden of collecting SABC TV Licence fees on behalf of the SABC is contained in the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020.

Comments can be emailed to or submitted in writing to: The Acting- Director-General, Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Block A3, IParioll Office Park, 1166 Park Street, Hatfield, Pretoria, Private Bag X860, Pretoria, 0001.

Phumzile Van Damme, a member of parliament of the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party, in a statement says that the DA is "unequivocally opposed to any efforts that would require any additional payment of TV licence fees. The public has already had to suffer the consequences of the billions in bailouts the SABC has received".

"Given the emergence of streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video and others, the White Paper broadens the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online broadcasting services."

"By implication, that would require the payment of a license fee for the viewing any “broadcasting services” which would include streaming services, regardless of the device on which it is viewed."

Phumzile Van Damme says that the South African public should not have to "pay a cent more" to keep the SABC afloat.

"The SABC must find creative ways to self-sustain, and break-even without requiring the public to fork out any more money."

"The DA notes that the SABC has promised to take cognizance of public outcry about the proposed license fee and will make its own submission to the department regarding the proposal."