Tag: SABC

DStv must pay to show SABC channels

By Myles Illidge for MyBroadband

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has given the SABC the green light to charge pay-TV services for its free-to-air broadcasts.

Subscription broadcasting services (SBSs) must carry specific channels from the public broadcaster. The recently gazetted changes stipulate that the SABC now also has the right to negotiate carriage charges for these channels.

Pay-TV providers must carry SABC1, SABC 2, and SABC 3. These channels were previously broadcast on satellite TV platforms like DStv at no additional cost to them.

Channels that are optional for pay-TV providers to carry include SABC Sport and SABC Education.

The change comes even though MultiChoice said it had spent millions to carry the SABC’s channels on DStv since 2008, while the public broadcaster has not paid a cent.

According to MultiChoice, the SABC generates more than R500 million each year in advertising revenue from its presence on DStv.

Icasa decided that the commercial terms for the SABC’s three must-carry channels should be negotiated by public broadcasting services (PBS) and pay-TV licensees without interference from the regulator.

“Payment regarding the transmission of must-carry channels must be negotiated by both PBS and the SBS in terms of section 60(3) of the [Electronic Communications Act]. The PBS has an obligation to serve the public by producing content that is in the public interest,” it stated.

Under current regulations, pay-TV providers like DStv must broadcast the public broadcaster’s free-to-air channels to help the SABC with its mandate of keeping South Africans up to date on important information.

Because of this, they are not required to pay the SABC for the content and must only cover the costs associated with carrying the channels.

The SABC now wants MultiChoice to pay for its content and believes its channels are attractive for DStv subscribers.

SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe stated that “having the public broadcaster and public funds partially funding the largest television broadcast business on the African continent” (DStv) is not viable.

However, MultiChoice’s executive for corporate affairs, Collen Dlamini, refuted this.

He explained that while MultiChoice supported rational must-carry obligations in the public interest, it was against regulations that would force subscription TV services to pay for such channels.

“The practical effect is to compel subscription broadcasters to use their programming budget to pay for must-carry channels without having any choice about whether it wants those channels, and even if it does not wish to carry them, does not consider that it obtains material value from them and does not agree to this in negotiations,” he said.

Dlamini had also previously said that the Must Carry, Must Pay policy wouldn’t be permissible as a matter of law and be unconstitutional and invalid.

 

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.

 

By Loyiso Sidimba for IOL

The troubled SABC will square off with its rival MultiChoice at the communications regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) over the requirement that the subscription broadcasting services carry three of its television channels for free.

The public broadcaster wants subscription broadcasting services such as MultiChoice and StarSat to no longer be allowed to carry its public broadcasting service channels, SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3, without entering into commercial agreements.

According to the SABC, its long-standing view has been that the current provisions of Icasa regulations, dictating that it should make its broadcasting content available at no cost and prescribing the public broadcaster to bear the costs of transmission to subscription broadcasting services, are ultra vires (beyond the powers).

The SABC has seven television channels authorised by Icasa – the “must carry” SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as well as SABC Encore, SABC News, SABC Parliament and SABC Sport – and fears that the authority’s draft regulations extend the ambit of the “must carry” concept to all the free-to-air public broadcasting service programmes comprising in a public broadcasting service channel.

”This would extend the SABC’s ’must carry’ obligations to SABC Sport, SABC Education and any other current channel or future channel to be developed,” the public broadcaster warned Icasa.

In its submission to Icasa dated May 21, the SABC insisted that the “must carry” channels are SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 and do not include SABC Sport, SABC Education or any other SABC television channel either existing or to be developed.

The public broadcaster may, in its discretion, add the carriage of these additional channels, subject to commercial negotiations.

However, MultiChoice is opposed to the plan and has suggested that the move might be illegal despite the SABC obtaining legal opinion supporting its stance.

The SABC has been accused by MutliChoice of putting first its commercial interests that have now become more urgent in light of its continuing financial difficulties, which have nothing to do with its public service mandate of ensuring universal access to broadcasting services.

MultiChoice revealed that the SABC already earns R569 million a year in advertising revenue from the three channels carried on its DStv platforms.

”Contrary to the unsubstantiated allegations made by the SABC, no subscription or advertising revenue flows to MultiChoice as a result of the carriage of the ’must carry’ channels,” the company explained.

MultiChoice also charged that the public broadcaster failed to acknowledge that the company already makes a significant contribution towards the sustenance of public broadcasting by carrying all ’must carry’ transmission costs, incurring over R108m between 2008 and last year to comply with its obligations, and that Icasa has failed to recognise this.

”There is no legal basis for the SABC’s ’must carry/must pay’ proposal. Any suggestion that subscription broadcasters must pay the SABC for the ’must carry’ channels is completely at odds with the Electronic Communications Act 2005,” MultiChoice told Icasa.

The company insisted that subscription broadcasters cannot lawfully be required to provide the ’must carry’ channels to non-subscribers as such an obligation would not be legally permissible and is likely to be struck down as ultra vires and invalid on other grounds.

Free-to air e.tv wants Icasa’s must carry regulations not to be limited to public service broadcasting licensees such as SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 but to be extended to other commercial free-to air broadcasters with public service obligations like it.

The SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) have backed the public broadcaster.

”In broad terms, the draft regulations are supportive of our position on ’must carry’, which can be summarised as: Must carry, must pay,” the civil society and not-for-profit organisations stated, adding that Icasa has allowed a ‘must carry, must not pay anything’ principle to exist.

Icasa will hear oral submissions from e.tv, MMA/SOS, the SABC and MultiChoice later this month.

 

SABC to retrench more than 600 staff

By Ntombi Nkosi on IOL

It was a sad day for 621 employees from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) after it announced that it’s going ahead with retrenchments.

The broadcaster said in a statement that the monumental retrenchment process was due to its unhealthy financial situation, attributed to its bloated wage bill.

SABC said it has concluded its Section 189 process and will transition into the new fit-for-purpose structure effective from April 1, 2021.

Speaking to Independent Media, one employee said: “I really don’t know how to feel, I am heartbroken and don’t know what the future holds for me. I am one of the people that has been receiving counselling organised by HR.”

The broadcaster said the reduction of employee costs is central to its turnaround plan and its long-term sustainability. The Section 189 process began with the issuing of the notice in June 2020, and after an intensive nine-month period, it will conclude on Wednesday.

“The retrenchment process has been extremely difficult for all stakeholders and became emotionally charged at times. The extended process unfortunately also created prolonged uncertainty and a sense of despondency for many.

’’This was understandable and regrettable. However, despite these challenges, the Section 189 process was a necessary component of the SABC’s turnaround plan to ensure the public broadcaster’s long-term financial sustainability and capacity to fulfil its extensive public mandate,” said SABC’s Group Chief Executive, Madoda Mxakwe.

He added that the process was necessary to preserve and reposition the SABC as a resilient and viable public broadcaster and public media organisation.

“The SABC will continue to diligently serve the tens of millions of South Africans who rely on it for education, sport, news and entertainment in all our languages. We remain committed to transforming the SABC and taking its content everywhere, across platforms, on all devices and in all our languages.

’’We want to be part of preserving this national treasure which has the public interest at the very heart of its existence,” said Mxakwe

SABC said 346 of the 621 employees, notwithstanding the existence of alternative jobs, opted for voluntary severance packages.

The broadcaster said some employees were concerned about the impact of lower job scale codes resulting from the evaluation process on current salaries and their pension. They took voluntary severance packages as a first option and chose not to participate in any alternative job-seeking processes.

The other 275 employees are those who occupied positions that have become redundant. Some employees in this category went through the recruitment process seeking alternative opportunities, but were unfortunately not successful.

 

By Dan Meyer for The South African

Broadcasting giant MultiChoice has indicated its support over proposed measures to save the embattled South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC), who plan to implement a R265 yearly licensing fee to all South African households able to view their content.

The controversial plan would essentially see any household with access to a tv, laptop, smart phone or tablet charged an annual levy that the broadcaster hopes will salvage them from the financial distress they currently find themselves in. This would replace the existing TV Licence structure.

South Africans have reacted angrily to the notion that they should have to pay for the errors made by the SABC’s management over the years, even if they simply have access to the broadcaster’s content and choose not to watch anything it has to offer. The Democratic Alliance (DA) have called the proposed levy a “stealth bailout” and categorically opposed it. The measure would supposedly generate around R2 billion a year for the SABC.

The SABC submitted a 40-page document to the Department of Communications last week in which they detail the proposed levy and its collection system, saying that it should replace the current TV Licence structure.

“Essentially, the SABC submits that the public broadcasting levy should become a device-independent levy on all households that have the possibility of access[ing] public broadcasting content whether via the internet, mobile, analogue or any digital broadcasting platforms, with exemptions for indigent households and discounts for pensioners and other designated persons,” they said, adding that the the collection of the licence fee from subscribers, per household, is “not an onerous requirement from a systems point of view, noting it amounts to 72c a day based on the current licence fee”.

MultiChoice said on Tuesday that the proposal would eradicate the “outdated” TV licence model that they believe is not on in line with “international best practice”.

The broadcaster said that it is in favour of a “more effective, ring-fenced public broadcasting levy”, and suggested that this should preferably be collected by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

They’re endorsement of the proposal is the polar opposite of they’re appraisal of the plan offered just last week, when they suggested that the plan is unfeasible and “not worthy of any serious consideration”.

The endorsement follows the latest round of retrenchments effected at the SABC, who confirmed the dismissal of 12 SABC radio station managers on Monday 8 March, with the company now initiating a revised structure for its radio titles that will see certain stations clustered together in various “combos”.

Vuyo Mthembu, SABC spokesperson, said that within the new structure, marketing managers will be reporting directly to corporate affairs and marketing departments “to ensure efficiency in the delivery of the organisation’s marketing objectives”.

“Furthermore, station managers are now called business managers as this will ensure that business managers of each station take full ownership of the profit and loss responsibility, drive revenue and listenership growth whilst fulfilling the SABC’s mandate of informing, educating and entertaining South Africans,” he said.

 

Source: MyBroadband

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.

Only 30% of people pay TV licence fees

By Sihle Mlambo for IOL

The SABC would be commercially viable and would receive an immediate cash injection of up to R2bn per year if everyone paid their TV licence fee.

This is according to the public broadcaster’s chief operations officer Ian Plaatjes, who was speaking to IOL in a wide ranging interview on Friday.

Plaatjes said only 30% of TV licence holders were compliant and that had substantially affected the public broadcaster’s funding model.

“Our TV Licence is R265 per year and we have 30% of people paying, so we have a default rate of 70%.

“As you know the organisation’s funding model is through TV licence fees as well as advertising revenue, so we are not government funded, we are very dependent on that.

“If everybody was paying their TV licence, we certainly would be a financially stable and viable organisation, but that isn’t the case,” said Plaatjes.

The public broadcaster also lost a lot of money in advertising revenue during the peak Covid-19 and has only started to show promising signs recently.

He said advertising revenue plunged between 70% to 80% during hard lockdown months.

Plaatjes said the organisation was entering into a Section 189 retrenchment process which would see 400 jobs on the line as part of the SABC’s bid to save about R700m per year for the next three years.

Management at the SABC have also said they will freeze salary increments for the next three years, abandon the company’s leave encashment policy and have also reviewed annual leave and sick leave policies.

Plaatjes also said the public broadcaster would be making a push to utilise DSTV as a TV licence revenue collection stream, while also clarifying that they will not be doing the same with international streaming services such as Netflix.

“We have said that we expect DSTV to collect television licence fees on our behalf, they have about 10 million subscribers and if those subscribers do not pay their fee, they can cut them off immediately.

“Some of those subscribers (on DSTV) do not have a TV licence, so we are saying they can collect those TV licence fees on our behalf,” said Plaatjes.

“(Unpaid TV licence fees account for) about R2bn per year, we would be financially stable and viable immediately, so, if you compare ourselves with the BBC (in the UK), which is completely funded through their TV licence, their fee is over R3000 per year and they have nearly 100% collection rate, so it makes a huge difference.

“All that money can be redirected to content and we can have fresher, newer content and also additional content as well,” said Plaatjes.

Meanwhile, he said the public broadcaster had developed a new target operating model which was geared at cashing in on digitisation of the sector.

On Monday, the Telkom streaming service went live with SABC content.

“With our new target operating model, we have identified additional revenue drivers, one of it being carriage licences, like the deal we have just concluded with Telkom which went live on Monday.

“What that does to our revenue is it gives us two additional revenue streams that we never had before, we get a licence (fee) for our channels and we will be able to share in the revenue on the Telkom platform.

“This is not an exclusive deal with Telkom, so we intend to do this deal with other telecommunication companies as well, and so, those will be other additional revenue.

“That is over and above what we have projected in turning the organisation around, so it is huge,” he said.

With the SABC still stuck on analogue, Plaatjes said it was critical to the SABC’s viability that the public broadcaster moved to digital in the next five years.

He said if the public broadcaster was able to offer direct-to-home (DTH) services with a set-top box, that would enable the SABC to have its own dedicated sports, health, education and channels aimed at the marginalised language groups.

Thriving SABC

Asked what a thriving SABC looked like in the next five years, Plaatjes said: “In a best case scenario, we will be in a multi-platform and multi-channel environment.

“Right now we are on analogue, we need to migrate to a digital platform. There’s currently two platforms available, DTT (digital terrestrial television) and DTH.

“The current legislation forces us to a DTT platform, but in five years time that cannot be the case because it is unsustainable in terms of the cost of it being too high.

“In five years time we will have more people on DTH, which is completely interoperable because you can be anywhere in the country and you will be able to be connected via DTH if you have a set-top box.

“But if I have a DTT box, and I move into an area which does not have DTT coverage, it is not interoperable, I have to buy a new box.

“We cannot grow our channels right now because we are on analogue, but on digital, we can have multiple channels and grow the industry through that, and by then we will have our own OTT (over-the-top) platforms, we will have our own OTT platform in the next couple of years,” said Plaatjes.

Grim

As much as Plaatjes said the SABC was ready to go with digitisation, the matter was beyond them.

“The future of our destiny is not in our own hands. With digitisation, we are ready right now, but that requires a set-top box.

“But the roll-out of the set-top box is not determined by us, the manufacturing of it, the setting up of it, the installation and the managing of it afterwards, is outside of our control (it is with the preserve of the Department of Communications).

“So if that is not rolled out, then in five years time, worst case scenario, we will still not be off analogue,” he said.

He added: “There is no stumbling block from our side, all we need is a set-top box, because the infrastructure is there.

“There are 4.5 million households right now that do not have digital TV, so they are still on analogue.

“If you go provide them with a DTH set-top box right now, they will be able to connect.”

 

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has proposed that regulation be implemented to expand the definition of a TV licence to include services such as Netflix.

In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications presented by Deputy Communications Minister Pinky Kekana, the public broadcaster has argued the expanded definition of a TV licence is outdated and needs to be adjusted to current realities.

The SABC said that regulation is needed which would require pay-TV service providers like MultiChoice (DStv) and video on demand providers like Netflix to collect TV licences on behalf of the SABC.

It added that this would be similar to municipalities collecting traffic fines and motor vehicle licence discs.

Kekana said during the presentation that the government’s proposal to help the SABC improve its financial position would include allowing the public broadcaster to collect licence fees from non-TV users.

“Including engaging with those who have been carrying the SABC programmes on their pay-TV, how do we through ICASA make sure that they too are able to assist us to collect TV licences?” Kekana said.

“But we are not only limiting it to TV. We also have other platforms where people consume content and in all of those areas, that is where we should look at how we are able to get SABC licence fees from those gadgets.”

This means that the SABC wants users who watch content on devices such as laptops and smartphones to also pay licence fees.

Sports rights
The SABC has also called for improved access to national sports rights – specifically, it wants access to these broadcast rights at an improved rate.

The SABC argued that national sports must be made available to it at “a very affordable price”.

Another point in the presentation to Parliament was the proposed removal of the must-carry rule for the SABC, which requires that all subscription broadcasters with more than 30 channels must carry the SABC’s three free-to-air television channels.

However, current regulations state the SABC “must offer its television programmes, at no cost,” to subscription broadcasters instead of allowing commercial negotiations between the parties.

The SABC said that it instead wants to negotiate with pay-TV providers to pay for these channels as it noted that the current regulations meant the deal was “one-sided” in favour of Multichoice.

Jobs bloodbath at SABC

According to Sunday World, The SABC has revived plans to retrench workers – despite the uproar that flared up when the public broadcaster initially wanted to cut hundreds of jobs as part of a turnaround process.

  • It will reduce the cash-strapped organisation’s salary bill by R700-million
  • It plans to invoke section 189 of the Labour Relations Act to cut 33% of staff
  • This means retrenchment of 981 permanent staff members and more than 1 200 freelancers
  • The current SABC operating model is not defined and had major challenges, such as the absence of an overarching group strategy and planning function cascading to divisional plans

Public forces SABC, Dstv to reach rugby deal

Source: IOL

A sponsorship deal with Heineken will allow the SABC to broadcast the Rugby World Cup final match between SA and England live across 11 SABC radio stations as well as on television.

Earlier this week, the broadcaster announced that, following an agreement with pay-channel Supersport, who owns the broadcasting rights to the 4-yearly rugby showcase, Saturday’s highly-anticipated clash would be broadcast on SABC 2.

This follows a public outcry that many South Africans would not be able to watch their team in the final, due to not having access to Dstv and other streaming platforms.

Additionally, the SABC will also broadcast the third-place play-off match between semi-final losers New Zealand’s All Blacks and Wales that will be played on Friday November 1.

The SABC announced Heineken as the official sponsor of the broadcast, and a partner in bringing the historic final match to the broader South African public.

The radio stations which will broadcast the match are: RSG; Radio 2000; Ukhozi FM; Umhlobo Wenene FM; Thobela FM; Motsweding FM; Lesedi FM; Ikwekwezi FM; Ligwalagwala FM; Phalaphala FM and Munghana Lonene FM, with live updates on SAFM.

Fans can watch a live build-up to the third place playoff and Rugby World Cup final on SABC 2 from 10am on Friday and Saturday respectively with the matches kicking off at 11:00.

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