Proposed SABC Bill amendments suggest levy to replace TV licences

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The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies says new amendments to the SABC Bill make provision for a household levy to replace the current TV licences.

The department says the amount to be paid will be agreed to between the communications, the national treasury and the Public Enterprises ministers.

Deputy Minister of Communications Philly Mapulane was briefing the Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies on Tuesday.

He says, “From our side chairperson, we have made a proposal which has been very clear that utilizing television license fee as a mechanism to fund the SABC is not viable given the high evasion rate and therefore we have proposed that there must be an introduction of a household levy and to move away from the television license fee.”

The Department says the envisaged SABC Bill before Parliament will ensure the independence and integrity of the institution are protected.

One of the main objectives of the Bill is to provide a viable funding model for the organisation to sustain itself.

Chief Director in the department Collin Mashile says relevant legislation will be used to maintain the integrity of the company.

“We are protecting Chair. We are protecting the independence of the SABC Chair as it is in line with the Constitution and that is what the cabinet was feeling very strongly about it – to say whatever you do you must ensure that the programming independence of the SABC in terms of SABC’s programme.

“We will do that Chair and also in terms of the Companies Act, the SABC will be the one that prevails. In relation to the Electronic Communications Act, we are saying that the Communications Act will prevail. Here chair, we are referring to the section that speaks to the role of ICASA which says ICASA has a responsibility to protect the integrity and independence of the SABC,” adds Mashile.

Media Monitoring Africa Director, William Bird says the SABC Bill is fundamentally flawed. Bird says his organisation and the SOS are calling on Parliament to reject the Bill as it undermines the integrity and editorial independence of the public broadcaster. Bird says parliament needs to fulfil its mandate and reject the bill.