COLUMN: What's the right thing to do?

2007-03-15 17:19

Mark Widdicombe, News24 User

I have a question. How can we justify subsidising a commercial corporation by forced public levy when that corporation is in direct competition with other commercial corporations that are not the beneficiaries of a similar subsidy?

That is the case with the SABC. In the days of apartheid, the SABC was the propaganda arm of a totalitarian regime, funded by compulsory public subscription. It was a monopoly; there were no other television broadcasters. Today, however, the SABC is in direct competition with DSTV, MNet and etv, who must raise revenues by selling advertising and by voluntary subscription fees.

The SABC makes various claims to justify their unfair advantage, none of which withstand serious scrutiny. We must, they say, be free from purely commercial constraints so that we may nurture local talent.

At first glance, this sounds quite reasonable, but if our local talent is not sufficiently talented to make programmes that people actually want to see, perhaps they should seek other lines of work.

Very little going on

In any case, a perusal of the SABC programme guide will reveal that there is very little nurturing going on; they wrap their news and current affairs offerings with American reality shows, soap operas and other such moronic drivel.

They also claim that they provide a service to communities where the provision of such service would not be commercially viable. This too is a red herring: apart from the very occasional news broadcast in, say, Tswana, the programming is almost entirely commercial in nature, and therefore in direct competition with their unsubsidised competitors.

So what is the SABC for? Is there room in a modern democracy for a state funded "public" broadcaster? The answer to the first question is that the SABC serves exactly the same purpose as it did before our democracy was born: it is the propaganda machine of the ruling party.

I submit that the answer to the second question is no. The SABC should be allowed to sink or swim solely on commercial grounds.


It is not only the fact of the TV licence I object to. Wiktionary defines extortion as "the practice of extorting money or other property, especially by a public official, or by the use of threats."

Failure to fork over the amount demanded for the TV licence will result in criminal prosecution and, on conviction, possible imprisonment. I think this fits the definition of extortion as given.

Being forced, at what is tantamount to gunpoint, to pay for a service I neither want nor need is deeply offensive.

So not only is the TV licence not serving the purpose it is purported to serve, it is also demonstrably immoral.

Come on. Abolish the TV licence. It's the right thing to do.

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    • Magomarele Tsipa Thobejane - 2007-03-15 17:36

      I call upon all people of the world from all walks of life to do their utmost best and destroy the evil man from hell - Robert Mugabe. This evil man is destroying innocent people's lives. He crushes the opposition because he controls the ?armed forces? whom he pays exorbitant salaries in return for protection against whoever challenges his foolish tyranny. This Tyrant who has altered Zimbabwe from bread basket of Sothern Africa into the banana republic has vowed to be a president for life. He killed more than 20 thousand people in Matabeleland in the 80s and is afraid of relinquishing power for fear of his skeletons catching up with him. He ordered war veterans to kill and drive out innocent white farmers who kept Zimbabwean economy pulsating. South African government ? Mugabe?s friends, keep on saying Zimbabwe must be left to solve its problems. How can the two parties which are not on equal footing regarding control of resources, e.g. security Police, Armed forces and state funds etc, be left to compete and solve the problems caused by the ruling party? Anyone with a brain can easily conclude that the ruling party (ZANUPF) - Mugabe's toy, will do whatever it can to crush and kill members of opposition like they?re busy doing now. They (ZANUPF) know fully well that Zimbabwe's economic problems are of their own making. They are scared of competition or any challenge to their grip on power. They use illiterate and ignorant rural people to justify the rigging of elections. Intimidation and torture around rural settlements in Zimbabwe is the order of the day during elections. People are forced to vote for ZANUPF or else their families will be attacked and killed by ZANUPF members and war veterans. They are threatened with all sorts of threats whilst being publicly warned against voting for the opposition - Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They warn that they (ZANUPF) will find out who votes against them, and when that happens, his/her family must immediately migrate. In South Africa, we are battling with influx of illegal Zimbabweans fleeing poverty, economic collapse, dictatorship, decay and worse to seek refuge in informal settlements and rotten areas of our country. Crime is the major disease that these illegal Zimbabweans inflict on our country. I don?t blame these Zimbabweans who flee to SA because their country has economically collapsed. They?re just looking for greener pastures. I anticipate crippling humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe in few months time. As of now, majority of Zimbabweans are surviving through aid agencies. Still, ZANUPF has found its way into using the aid resources to punish those who seem hostile to Mugabe?s policies. Poor human settlements notorious for their hostility to Mugabe and his cronies are being sidelined for aid. These are mainly opposition?s strong holds and it?s therein were many are being observed leaving to Neighboring countries and Europe. Mugabe has hiked the salaries of military chiefs and police to make them happy in the expense of all. Zimbabwean health system has collapsed, but Mugabe and his cronies don?t really care because they cross the border to get their health services in South Africa. What about the poor who are being denied passports to cross to South Africa? We can fold our arms and pretend not to see what?s happening in Zimbabwe, but one thing sure and one thing certain is we are human and what Mugabe is doing to fellow human beings is no laughing matter. The fact is we ? in South Africa, were in the same situation just above a decade ago and the whole world sympathized with us and through their efforts and pressure the enemy finally gave in. Why can?t the whole world do same against the enemy of peace and tranquility in Zimbabwe? We all know that African Union - a clique of African leaders, whose primary purpose is to defend each other at all costs, is siding with Mugabe without applying their minds to the underlying problems. Remember Auschwitz? I can?t clear those horrible pictures from my memory. Just like in Southern Darfur, Rwanda, great lakes, Bosnia and many places wherein the world turned away when atrocities happened, we are going to have our hands stained in blood if we let Zimbabwe plunges into civil war, more particularly ANC and its lapdog ? South African government, which support Mugabe?s dirty war. I?m not particularly interested in politics, but I?m deeply touched by human suffering. I write this letter to all who care to listen, saying any problems about human suffering anywhere in the world concern us all. World leaders should act swiftly and promptly to restore peace and human dignity before situation gets out of control. Please, as you read this long letter, spare a thought for the leader of MDC - Morgan Tsvangirai, and his fellow opposition party members lying in hospital fighting for their lives after being tortured, assaulted, battered and some killed by Robert Mugabe?s evil security forces. Tsipa Thobejane Johannesburg ? RSA.

    • Leon - 2007-03-15 19:29

      Perhaps a bit of clarity on the purpose of the license would go a long way. I understood the license to be for the equipment's (TV set) ability to receive a signal. If, however it is for the material they force down our throats, I full heartedly agree with you, Mark - Away with the license - It's the right thing to do.

    • Bollie - 2007-03-15 19:46

      Mark Widdicombe you deserve three cheers, but you are not going to be liked by the thiefing SABC.Unfortunatly for me if I dont pay my tv licence, I,m going to pick up shit with the SABC. I am a DSTV subscriber and I dont waste my time on SABC crap on SABC chanels,although I have to pay for it,I have no excuse I dont want hassels with the goverment .

    • Johann - 2007-03-16 05:57

      I agree 1 000 000%. I do not even watch any of the SABC channels for their lack of "watchable" programmes. With DSTV there are so much more! But we are obliged to pay SABC licences fees to krp dr Snooky in a overpaid job.

    • nicki - 2007-03-16 07:37

      I agree. If the money was shared amongst all broadcasters to pay for the distribution of signals to Sentech, then it might have been ok, but all goes into one pot.

    • Dineo - 2007-03-16 07:54

      Wow, I never thought of it that way. Yes please, abolish all TV licences. It is mos not tax. And it really does not make sense anyway as consumers have absolutely no say in what goes on TV, but instead we are bombarded with more of what we don't want to see. Please SABC, do the right thing! - Dineo

    • Volric - 2007-03-16 08:01

      I've heard that money from -TV- licenses, go towards the radio stations as well. Where else does the money go to?

    • LM - 2007-03-16 08:07

      The SABC is a public service with education, news and entertainment. Think about all the World Cup Cricket you are about to get for "free". Remember, you are paying a license to have a TV. According to your definition of extortion, your vehicle license falls under the same category. Why don't you refuse to pay that as well? While you?re at it, start dodging taxes as well. I can give you a million reasons why I don?t benefit from the enormous amounts of taxes I pay, but I still have to pay them

    • Matome Madibana - 2007-03-16 08:46

      I'm also one of the few who will not cooperate in terms of paying TV licence. The standard of SABC has declined big time. We used to watch CNN, BBC, LARRY KING LIVE, THE NBA BASKEBALL, DR. PHIL is being broadcast on SABC2 during broad day light, who's there to watch it at that time. No courtesy to repeat it over the weekend but Muvhango is repeated. We don't care about fake fictitious fairytales. We need realities that could positively that could make strides.

    • John - 2007-03-16 09:11

      I agree with this gentleman.Why should you have to pay for a forced service.Being a DSTV subscriber,gives me the freedom to choose what I want to watch,whereas SABC you are forced to watch reruns of programs all the time.Another thing,does the SABC not make enough money off advertising?How greedy is that when you force a pensioner to fork out a fee for television programming.Abroad there isnt such a thing as a TV license and there you can choose what you watch and when you want to watch it.

    • AN Other - 2007-03-16 09:44

      Did you use a thesaurus to come up with those words?

    • Johann - 2007-03-16 10:03

      Mark, You have hit the nail on the head. In the early days I tried to pay via debit order but after a few months of beurocratic disarray it all failed to go through. We as a family do not watch any of the SANC channels. I do not want them either. Let them get some sort of subcription going. As a DSTV subscriber some subcribtion monies are paid to the SANC anyway due to some agreement in the early dark ages. Away with extortion.

    • Engela vanTonder - 2007-03-16 10:25

      The letter of Mark Widdcombe regarding the SABC and its utterly unfair advantage and evil practices is absolutely spot on. Please call for a vote to down the SABC! This propogandistic extortionist deserves to sink to level where it belongs - low, very low, to the scum-level of the 16 L/N/V films it polutes and defiles the air with. I am thrilled with the SABC article. Please take it further!

    • frank cobain - 2007-03-16 10:55

      While I agree with the general gist of your column, a law is not extortion. The law is: should you have a device capable of picking up television signals (be it a tv, cellphone or computer tv card) you have to pay for a tv license. If you do not, you are contravening the law and are hence punishable. Whether you agree with it or not isn't the point. I might not like the speed limit of 120, but I stick to it or I will get fined. However I do think that in this case, the law should be changed.

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