Tag: levy

Goodbye TV licence, hello ‘household levy’

By Khulekani Magubane for News24

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has told the Department of Communications that the SABC bill approved by Cabinet earlier this year needed to “redefine” the television licence regime to put the public service broadcaster on a better footing when it comes to drawing revenue.

The SABC was making submissions to public hearings by the Department of Communications on Monday. The broadcaster recommended a “household levy system” based on the possibility of access to SABC services – rather than actual usage of its services.

The SABC also called for a “pro-competitive measure and regulatory obligation” where “the dominant subscription broadcaster”, i.e. MultiChoice, would be required to collect the public broadcasting household levy from its subscribers on the state-owned broadcaster’s behalf.

The SABC has been working through financial challenges for the better part of a decade and the difficulty it has experienced in collecting television licence fees adds to its already strenuous money troubles.

In its submission, the SABC said the bill also does not provide for further government grant funding for public interest programming. As such, the bill – which was approved by Cabinet in July – does not secure the financial sustainability of the SABC.

“Unfortunately, the SABC Bill retains the outdated TV licence system and does not take into account the SABC’s view that it should be replaced by a technology neutral, public broadcasting household levy that would exempt the indigent and should be part-collected by the dominant pay TV operator,” the SABC said.

The SABC reiterated that the current TV licence system should be scrapped and replaced with a “public broadcasting household levy”.

“The SABC submits that this entire section from the bill is required to be deleted and redrafted to take into account the SABC’s submissions on the introduction of a public broadcasting household levy,” said the SABC.

The broadcaster said it was concerned that the bill retained the TV licence fee regime which is tied to television sets, despite the proposal made by SABC for a complete change. Linking a levy to devices is administratively burdensome and cannot be future-proofed, the submission added.

“As such, a new model of defining a technology-neutral, public broadcasting household levy has been recommended in order to secure a stable revenue source for the SABC’s public service mandate,” the submission said.

The SABC submits that South Africa follow the device-independent German model, while adding our own particular South African market requirements on collection, enforcement and exemptions.

“The SABC recommends that a household levy system based on the possibility of access to SABC services – rather than usage – should be implemented,” the submission said.

The broadcaster said the German household levy model was implemented in 2013 and reaffirmed as constitutional in 2018 by that country’s Federal Constitutional Court.

“The SABC reiterates its submission on that – as a pro-competitive measure and regulatory obligation – the dominant subscription broadcaster should be required to collect the public broadcasting household levy from its subscribers,” the SABC said.

The SABC said that the SABC Bill should be informed by the Draft White Paper for Audio Audiovisual Content Services and the “recommended approach” will create policy certainty and save both the policymaker and stakeholders’ costs of participation in this legislation development process.

“If the Broadcasting Act is repealed by an SABC Act, in isolation of the general policy process, the DCDT would have to amend the SABC Act once the general policy process is completed. In the interests of expediting a harmonised policy process, the SABC has prepared comments on the SABC Bill as gazetted,” the broadcaster said.

The SABC thanked the department for the opportunity to submit written representations and said that it looked forward to further engagement on the finalisation of the audio audiovisual content services policy and the development of industry legislation.

 

1 April: 4 major taxes are coming

While analysts praised former finance minister Malusi Gigaba for a budget speech that steered clear of any shocks or nasty surprises, there are still a number of big changes that will hit South African pockets come April.

VAT hike

Arguably the biggest of these is the increase in the effective VAT rate, which will rise from 14% to 15% adding approximately R22.9 billion to the fiscus.

Bruce Fleming, a financial planner with Old Mutual Private Wealth Management said that the increase was a tough political decision – but said it was important to remember that it is the first such adjustment since 1993 and was therefore overdue.

However, Fleming warned that all households will feel the pinch of the increase, and while zero-rated food items will take some of the increased burden off the poor, there has been no further developments as to whether more items will be added to the basket or even if additional items will be introduced at all.

Fuel levy

Commuters are expected to feel additional pain from 4 April with an increase in the fuel levy – although this increase could be slightly offset by a stronger rand and lower oil prices.

From this date the fuel levy will be increased by 52c per litre on 4 April, pushing up the general fuel levy to R3.62 per litre of petrol, after a hike of 30c per litre last year.

“This is quite significant as it will place an extra burden on all road users especially on those who mostly rely on public transport and will ultimately have an effect on inflation,” said Fleming.

Sin taxes

As expected there was another increase in sin taxes and South Africans will pay between 6% and 10% more for alcohol, while smokers will be paying 8.5% more to sustain their habit.

Fleming said that this is expected to bring in an additional R1.33 billion in revenue in the 2018/19 financial year.

However, the increase in South Africa’s sin taxes are also particularly notable this year, given the recent push towards further legislating both alcohol and smoking regulations.

This means that we could see both a ban on public smoking and an increased drinking age (from 18 to 21) by the next budget speech.

‘Not Wealth’ taxes

“Income tax for the higher earners will continue to squeeze them as there is no relief for inflation in the top four tax brackets,” said Fleming.

“While the bottom three personal income tax brackets as well as the primary, secondary and tertiary rebates will be partially adjusted for inflation through a 3.1% increase, the top four brackets will remain unchanged.”

Despite not seeing a direct increase in the higher wealth brackets, the budget was notable in the amount of ways it plans to indirectly tax wealthier South Africans.

This includes an increase in estate duty from 20% to 25% for estates worth R30 million or more, an explicit tax on smartphones, and an increase in the tax on vehicle prices.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

Social-media giants such as Facebook and will have to reveal the scale of cyber bullying in the UK and face being made to pay the cost of dealing with it.

Under the latest guidance by the UK government, technology companies will be required to publish an annual report on how complaints are handled, the reported abuse that is pulled down and the extent of their efforts to moderate bullying or offensive content about children, women, gay people or religions.

One of the proposals is for “an industry-wide levy so social-media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms,”​ according to a statement published Wednesday that didn’t give further details.

“Behavior that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen,” Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said in an email released by her office.

“We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone.”

The campaign is part of the government’s wider strategy to force technology companies to accept greater responsibility for their content.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also called on companies to “step up” and assume moral responsibility for ridding their platforms of terrorist content, refusing to rule out the prospect of compulsion by fines or legislation.

The UK has been pushing the envelope in terms of how willing it is to go after Silicon Valley.

Efforts to end hate speech and trolling on social media have intensified in the wake of five terror attacks this year, yet the desire to regulate tech firms – in ways that are unprecedented – risks driving them offshore.

On Tuesday, Sharon White, the chief executive of UK media regulator Ofcom, said she viewed companies like Facebook as news publishers.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, later told reporters that the government was “looking at the role Google and Facebook play in the news environment” as well as “the roles, responsibility and legal status of the major internet platforms.”

In May 2016, a number of social-media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube voluntarily committed to trying to take down illegal content within 24 hours.

But last month the European Commission called upon the tech firms to do more to block illegal content.

Germany has passed a law requiring hate speech to be removed within 24 hours of it being flagged, with penalties of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) for repeated failures to comply.

In September, May went further. At a meeting at the United Nations, she propose new rules requiring internet companies to take down extremist content within two hours.

Source: BusinessTech/Bloomberg

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