Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has doubled down on the government’s plan to charge people with computers, smartphones, and tablets TV licence fees.
This was part of a response from Ndabeni-Abrahams to a question from the DA deputy chief whip in the National Assembly, Michael Waters.
Waters asked the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies:
What is the justification of (a) charging persons with mobile devices the cost of a TV licence and (b) transferring all the income of TV licences derived from mobile devices to the SABC?
In response, Ndabeni-Abrahams cited sections of the recently published “Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020”.
She said amendments to the TV licence fee section to broaden the definition and collection system for television licences are necessary because of the SABC’s financial challenges.
There are also plans to strengthen enforcement mechanisms and penalties of non-payment of TV licenses.
She added that “achievement of the above will be determined by the submissions expected from all South Africans towards the draft White Paper”.
What Ndabeni-Abrahams is referring to is the public comment process related to the Draft White Paper which closes on 15 February 2021.
Ndabeni-Abrahams’s response did not sit well with DA Shadow Minister of Communications Zakhele Mbhele.
Mbhele said Ndabeni-Abrahams did not “properly justify” government’s intention of charging people with mobile devices the cost of a TV licence and giving the money to the SABC.
“This draft paper proposes to exploit another stream of revenue to bail out yet another state entity brought to its knees by years of gross mismanagement,” he said.
“And it seems the Minister knows that this is not justifiable, given her poor attempt at answering the question.”
Mbhele added that it is the same White Paper that seeks to extend TV licence fees to include streaming services like Netflix, regardless of whether such a service is viewed on a television.
He urged the public to make written submissions opposing the Draft White Paper’s plan broaden the definition and collection system for TV licences.
The DA has also launched a petition against the government’s plan to force people to pay for a TV licence to stream Netflix or watch DStv.
“You should not have to pay a cent more to keep the SABC afloat,” the DA said.