The SABC’s annual report for 2022 shows that South Africans firmly believe that paying a TV Licence is not “the right thing to do”, as evasion rates remain high.
The group’s report, tabled before the portfolio committee on communication, shows that TV licence fees generated R815.1 million in revenue in 2022, compared with R788.4 million in 2021 – representing an increase of 3.4% year-on-year.
The broadcaster attributed the hike in fees paid to a successful communication campaign – however, even with the slight bump, it noted that the collection is against a total of R4.4 billion billed.
This is only 18.3% of the total licence fees billed being realised as revenue, which is very similar to the 17.9% recognised in 2021, the SABC said.
The broadcasting commission noted that the TV licence fee evasion rate is, therefore, still a concern as the licence fee collection rates indicate an evasion rate of 81.7% in 2022 – similar to that of 82.1% shown in 2021.
The SABC has a database of 10.5 million licence holders – meaning roughly 8.6 million TV Licence holders are still holding out.
Further to this, the SABC acknowledged that there was not much it could do about the situation.
“While there are legislative prescripts enabling imprisonment for non-compliance, the limited resources and costs implications make enforcement economically unviable,” said SABC, adding that the collection cost of TV licence fees was also higher than last year, rising to 8.9% from 8.1% in 2021.
Proposed changes to combat non-compliance
Earlier this year, the SABC proposed to replace the current TV licence system with what will be known as a ‘public media levy‘ – in a bid to curb the high level of TV licence fee evasion.
The national broadcaster has said that the new levy would be device-independent and apply to all households and businesses.
It would also be based on whether South Africans can access the content, not just whether they watch it. South Africans would therefore be required to pay the levy even if they don’t watch SABC content – simply being able to access it on any device is enough.
The ANC also backs this proposal. Speaking at a post-conference briefing in August 2022, communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that the party has decided to push forward with the proposal, noting that the current TV licence scheme is not working.
“The public broadcaster must be strengthened. The SABC has both a commercial mandate and a public mandate. In the public mandate, we want the SABC to be funded from the national fiscus, but we are also proposing a household levy,” she said.
“The TV licence arrangement is not working, it is actually impacting the SABC’s ability to survive.”
The SABC said that introducing a new TV licence scheme in South Africa is, therefore, one of the key interventions that will need to be introduced for the national broadcaster to become financially viable.
The SABC reported a loss after interest and tax of R258 million and negative cash flows from operations for the financial reporting period, amounting to R353 million.
The unspent balance of R861 million from the R3.2 billion recapitalisation funding from the shareholder stabilised the cash position of the corporation. The SABC said that the working capital remained healthy, with a net current asset of R767 million.
Despite this, according to the SABC, the expectation is for the corporation to still break even in 2022/23.