Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Save our SABC: New public service broadcasting bill, problems with license fees etc.

Dear All

Below please find a communication from the SOS co-coordinator, Kate Skinner, followed by a communique which was sent out regarding the proposed new public service broadcasting bill.

Dear all

Apparently some of you have been struggling to find the new Public Service Broadcasting Bill. It can be found on the Department of Communications website under SABC and Community media charters. The link is http://www.doc.gov.za/images/stories/1-32663%2028-10%20comm.pdf or simply click HERE

A major problem has come to light in terms of the timing of the Bill. It is fundamentally undermining license collection. As highlighted in one of my previous emails apparently members of the general public now feel that they don't have to pay. At present license fee income is a critical component of the SABC's funding streams - even a small drop in license feel income is potentially a major problem. Also, what is problematic is that it seems that the Department of Communications will potentially really struggle to get National Treasury to agree to changes to the Income Tax Act. Over the last decade or so they have vehemently opposed special taxes. We have no indication that they have changed their mind on this... Please see below re: article on license fee issues..

Just an update re: our letter to the Minister and our proposed press conference. I have received a lot of input on the letter I am just waiting for a few more comments before sending it out. Please find a copy of the draft letter attached. In terms of the press conference it was agreed that it was a better strategy to talk to individual journalists and to organise op ed pieces. We actually did not go ahead with the conference this morning.

Please do send your comments on the Bill.

Warm regards

Kate Skinner
SOS Coordinator
(082) 926-6404


South Africa Communique

2 November 2009

New Bill proposes abolishment of TV licences

The Department of Communications has submitted a draft bill to do away with TV licences and change how public broadcasting is funded in South Africa. Earlier this year (2009), Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda announced that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) had raked in close to R1-billion in television licence fees in 2008.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question, he revealed that the national broadcaster had attracted 644 253 new licensed viewers during the 2008/09 financial year.
"Television licence collections for the 2008/09 financial year (April 1 2008 to March 31 2009) amounted to R972m."

In terms of the Broadcasting Act, television licence revenue had to be used solely to fund the SABC's public service broadcasting (PSB) mandate. "With regard to television broadcasting, income derived from licence fees is allocated to the SABC's two PSB channels, namely SABC1 and SABC2. "Television licence revenue also assists in funding the corporation's 15 PSB radio stations," Nyanda said.

If the cash-strapped public broadcaster is annoyed or surprised by the department's initiative, it's not saying. In fact, spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the SABC's management had taken note of the newly published Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Bill, and its proposals on the abolition of television licences. "The bill is currently a discussion document which still has to go through a public consultation process and various legislative processes before it becomes law."

Kganyago added that the payment of TV licence fees remained in force. This week Nyanda said the PSB Bill was intended to replace the Broadcasting Act of 1999.
His department is amending and renaming the act to bring it in line with international standards. He said a strategy would be formulated to secure the SABC's revenue stream from other sources. "The department will introduce an appropriate funding model to ensure the public broadcaster is not left to the vagaries of the markets," he said.

"The amendment will ensure that the public broadcaster is best suited to our young democracy. "The draft bill is intended to align the broadcasting system with the country's developmental goals. The wide-ranging bill provides, among other things, for the establishment of a Public Service Broadcasting Fund to provide revenue for public service broadcasting. It further provides for an international broadcasting services division within the SABC, the revision of the composition of the corporation's board, and a performance management system for the board.

It also outlines the mandate of the signal distribution company Sentech, as the common carrier. The bill also provides for charters for the SABC and community broadcasting services.
Nyanda said the bill would prioritise particular categories within public broadcasting through the licensing of specialist channels for children's programming, wildlife and documentaries.

Members of the public have been urged to go to www.doc.gov.za to comment on the bill before the December 7 deadline.


MISA-SA Information Officer
Tumelo Tshabalala
tel: 011 339 6767
fax: 011 339 9888
email: info@misa-sa.org.za
www. misa-sa.org.za