SABC chair Bongumusa Makhathini. Picture: Simphiwe Nkwali
SABC chair Bongumusa Makhathini. Picture: Simphiwe Nkwali

Still reeling from the financial consequences of “well-documented governance failures”‚ the SABC wants to increase TV licence fees and penalties for non-paying viewers.

Board chair Bongumusa Makhathini said on Thursday that progress had been made in stabilising the public broadcaster‚ strengthening governance and regaining integrity.

“TV licence fees still remain the second-largest source of revenue for the SABC‚ but we need to rebase the fee and strengthen the collection of this revenue. The SABC’s television licence fee of R265 has remained unchanged since 2013‚” he told a public broadcasting colloquium.

The licence fee costs an average of 72c/day‚ for those who do pay. “In September 2018‚ I think we can all agree that there is very little‚ if anything‚ you can buy for 72c/day.”

He said 72c/day provided people with 18 radio stations featuring all official languages‚ hundreds of hours of South African and international music‚ and three TV channels (plus two more on DStv) that included billions of rands of commissioned South African content‚ sports programming and news production.

“The SABC strongly believes that an overhauled TV licence fee system can go some way to funding the public broadcasting mandate. There are currently only approximately 1.8-million paying households and businesses‚ out of a total of 9-million accounts on the SABC database.

“To put this in a proper context‚ we have 14-million TV households and thousands of businesses. While 1.8-million paying accounts is a relatively small percentage‚ we believe that a credible‚ trusted and properly run public broadcaster can create a culture of increased TV licence payment‚” he said.

The SABC also wants tighter compliance around the sale of TV sets related to the payment of licence fees — and a new‚ broadened definition of what constitutes a TV set — to be included in the Broadcasting Act.

“In order to enforce greater compliance on the payment of licence fees‚ we believe reporting obligations should be broadened to include insurance companies and pay-TV operators‚” he said.

“The SABC also recommends stricter enforcement and penalties for non-payment of licence fees.”

The broadcaster made a loss of R622m in the year to end-March‚ Business Day reported on Monday. Revenue for the year‚ according to the public broadcaster’s annual report tabled in parliament‚ came in at R6.6bn against a budget of R7.3bn.