More South Africans than ever don't feel like paying their TV licence as SABC wants to increase fees

Watching television without paying your licence? (Pexels)
Watching television without paying your licence? (Pexels)

Cape Town – Nine percent of South Africans think they should still pay for a SABC TV licence compared to 40% a year ago.

This comes at a time when the embattled public broadcaster, struggling to broadcast new content, wants to increase licence fees.

READ MORE: Less than a third of people pay their SABC TV licences

While the SABC asked the minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, for a price hike of 5% in SABC TV licence fees from R265 to R278 per year, less South African TV households are bothering to pay it, with a continuing downward trend in people who feel that they should have to pay it, or that there's anything wrong in not paying it.

According to Citizen Surveys, a South African research company, the percentage of South Africans who believe that not paying for their SABC TV Licence fee is wrong, keeps falling - down to just 40% in 2019 after another 9% plunge from 49% in 2018.

The South African public broadcaster that is in severe financial distress continues to be plagued by internal turmoil, board and top management in-fighting, corruption investigations, a stale content offering and struggling to broadcast content like soccer, rugby and other sport tournaments as it did in the past.

"At the beginning of last year, 13% of South Africans did not see any issues with those who do not pay their SABC TV licences. This rose significantly, where, in the second quarter of 2019, 21% of South Africans believed there is nothing wrong with not paying," said Reza Omar, Citizen Surveys director.


Sylvia Tladi, SABC acting COO, told parliament last week that the collection costs to get SABC TV licence fees paid has kept increasing, saying the SABC found itself in a situation where "for you to be able to collect R265 you need to spend at least R25 of that".

"A portion of that R265 also goes to allocations of VAT, so you're not able to walk away with any profit from that R265, taken into account the VAT portion as well as the internal collection costs that we incur as the SABC."

"These come in many forms. We send people SMS's; we send emails, we phone people, we pay our external agencies as well. So all those costs - when they mount on that R265, ideally the SABC does not walk away with much."

Sylvia told parliament that a lot of people stopped paying their SABC TV licence fees in 2015.

"We've had instances of reduced compliance in 2015, and I think from a historical point of view we can all understand at that time when people really started to stop paying SABC TV Licence fees and withdrew their commitment from the SABC."

"It's unfortunate for the SABC that it started gradually in 2015 and then in 2016, it took a spike. The non-compliance numbers started to increase. In trying to bring back our TV Licence holders we need to not only focus on collecting licence fees but also need to complement that with compelling content on our platforms to gain back to confidence that our viewers used to have."


Bongumusa Makhathini, SABC chairperson, told parliament last week "how much do you pay a guy looking after your car at the mall parking? Surely you pay them more than 72c."

He said that "72c a day cannot really justify us saying TV Licence is too expensive. Actually there are a lot of South Africans who can afford to pay R1 a day towards the SABC. If you pay a guy looking after your car more than 72c, how about SABC who gives you 19 radio stations, 5 TV channels".

Members of parliament took him to task for saying that R265 per year for a SABC TV Licence isn't expensive.

An EFF MP said "Our members in the EFF pay R10 a year. In the Eastern Cape, it is extremely difficult to get our members to pay R10 for a year. That R10 for them buys bread."

"For the majority of the population, it is not that easy - especially now that we've got 10 million people who are unemployed. The SABC rakes in about 6 or 7 million viewers and most of them are poor people who can't afford DStv. I think it's incorrect to say it's cheap."