The SABC Building in Aukland Park...pic Tyrone Arthur/Mainbody/SABC Building/30-06-2009/Bday

The Department of Communications wants to declare the SABC a Public Service Media Broadcaster and fund it through a new household levy.

This was one of the proposals presented by Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana during a recent Portfolio Committee on Communications meeting.

Kekana said the SABC was trailing behind the broadcasting industry, which is aggressively moving online.

She said the online environment is far more lucrative than the traditional broadcasting platforms, and the SABC, therefore, needs to change its operating environment.

“The main goal is to declare the SABC a public service media broadcaster. If you do that, the SABC will be able to be competitive,” said Kekana.

She said it is necessary for the SABC to do away with its legacy apartheid model and adopt a more appropriate model like the BBC or the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Going back, if you look at the old TV 1 which was predominantly English and Afrikaans, and the old Springbok Radio, they were well funded,” she said.

In comparison, the SABC is currently facing budgetary constraints which are preventing it from providing quality services in all local languages.

To address these financial constraints, the Department of Communications wants to introduce a new household levy to ensure the SABC is “properly funded”.

Kekana highlighted that it is only the Finance Minister who can introduce a new tax, but that her department must initiate this discussion.

“We cannot fold our arms and say the status quo must remain when we know our public broadcaster is dwindling,” she said.

Another proposal to increase SABC revenue is to force private broadcasters like MultiChoice to collect TV license fees.

SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon revealed that the TV licence fee “evasion rate” – i.e. households which do not bother to pay for a licence – is 76%.

To increase the TV licence compliance rate, the Department of Communications wants private broadcasters to be forced to collect TV licence fees from their subscribers.

South Africa’s Broadcasting Act already allows third parties to collect TV licence fees on behalf of the state broadcaster.

Kekana said “broadcasters like MultiChoice should be obligated to collect TV licence fees” to ensure the SABC is well funded.