Broadcasting bill on hold

Communications Minister Roy Padayachie has withdrawn the draft Public Service Broadcasting Bill pending further consultation, and wants to consider new models for funding the SABC and community media, his office said today.

“Basically what we want is a complete policy review. The minister wants to engage with as many of our stakeholders as possible,” Padayachie’s chief of staff Raymond Reddy said.

The decision follows complaints from concerned groups at public hearings held in Midrand last week.

Reddy said the ministry needed to consider input made at the hearings, which were held just a fortnight after Padayachie took over the communications portfolio in President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle.

The draft bill had called for, among other things, scrapping TV licences and for an amendment to the Income Tax Act that could have resulted in up to one percent of personal income tax being set aside for public broadcasting.

Padayachie said in a statement that in redrafting the bill, the department should consider the “developmental and democratic goals of the republic“.

For these to be best served, “it is imperative that our broadcasting policy is at the cutting edge of our digital age”.

Also, broadcasting policy required “wholehearted and energetic mobilisation of state, industry and societal role players”.

Specifically, Padayachie wanted a review of existing legislation and regulations to ensure “policy and legislative alignment and consistency”.

And he wanted a review of “research done of funding options for the SABC and community radio” and an “economic modelling exercise” to “begin to look at SABC and community media costs and projected costs of digital migration in the sector”.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed the withdrawal of the bill.

“The DA welcomes the prudence exercised by the communications department in this regard, as the bill would have had harmful consequences for South Africa’s media sector, and public broadcasting in South Africa.

“Indeed, it was deeply concerning that the bill was mooted in the first place, with the sweeping powers it would have afforded the minister of communications regarding financial control over the SABC and the misguided attempt to fund the SABC from a 1 percent income tax.”

Media Monitoring Africa also welcomed the withdrawal of the bill and the minister’s stated commitment to policy review.

“We applaud the department of communications and the minister of communications for engaging the public at the past Public Service Broadcasting Bill hearings and for giving ear to the concerns and suggestions put forward, that has resulted in the withdrawal of the bill.

“MMA, in particular, welcomes the minister’s stated intentions to review existing research on the funding options of the SABC and community media, including economic modelling exercises.”

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