Fuss over proposed licence changes

Users of live streaming services, regardless of whether they consume media on a computer, cellphone, tablet or TV, may be required to pay a TV license. PHOTO: Samantha Lee-Jacobs
Users of live streaming services, regardless of whether they consume media on a computer, cellphone, tablet or TV, may be required to pay a TV license. PHOTO: Samantha Lee-Jacobs

“Pay your TV licence, it’s the right thing to do” could soon apply to your cellphone, tablet, laptop or any other device used to consume media – should the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) have its way.

In a presentation to the parliamentary portfolio committee, deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana said the definition of the TV licence to only include TVs is outdated as modern society consumes media via live streaming sites like Amazon Prime Video, Showmax, DStv Now and Netflix on other devices such as cellphones tablets and laptops.

This means, although many have moved away from owning and consuming media through a television set – hence avoiding paying a TV licence – the government could soon claim these levies from all content consumers, regardless of the device used.

The government states: “If you own a TV set, you must have a valid, paid-up television licence at all times.”

According to the TV licence regulations obtained from the SABC website, the TV licence fees payable are for a device that receives a broadcast transmission signal and any number of devices can be licenced under one TV licence. It is unclear how this will change regarding the proposed new licencing fees.

The proposal is part of the SABC’s financial recovery plan as the indebted broadcaster continues to struggle.

Kekana further stated that subscription streaming sites and pay-tv companies such as DStv should be liable to collect licensing fees.

But consumers are not happy.

Following the presentation last week, social media users were up in arms about the proposal.

People’s Post polled readers on social media to get their take on their willingness to pay and the overall consensus was that they would not be happy to comply with these regulations.

“I am not supporting any SOE’s (state-owned enterprise) looking to make up for looted funds. Life is already so expensive, they keep pushing it,” says Brandon Lavelot.

Warrick Jantjes agrees, saying: “No thanks. I am not supporting any crooks anymore. Making the rich richer and poor poorer.”

For Jian Groenewalt, this is unreasonable.

“Always looking at new ways to tax the people instead of improving service delivery or dealing with the actual issues they are facing,” she says.

Like many others, Hilge Rhodes questions the need for a “TV licence” for something that was not “even close to a TV”. Many others are calling it unfair for additional fees on top of existing subscriptions, especially in light of many not consuming media produced by the SABC.

“The SABC wants to punish the public for their failure to effectively manage a broadcasting business.

“This is an easy scapegoat. Once again. Why not move with the times and start running your business like a business instead of asking the government and now the consumer to bail you out? Again the representation of poor, ineffective leadership which benefits the pockets of an incompetent and a corrupt government,” says Bevil Lakay.

Tristan Francis says: “No way. We are already paying tons for various subscriptions, we shouldn’t be paying anything more for streaming. Government are (wanting) to suck up every cent they can from us.”

But for Shannon Scholtz, trying to make sense of it all, the proposal was “the funniest thing” he has ever heard.

“The purpose of a TV license is in the name and, to be honest, if you have anything else other than the SABC and Etv channels – which most have already – I don’t see the point of a TV license at all anymore.

“They are probably in debt and loosing out; now they want to charge on other devices. So one should pay TV license, for example, my own phone which I then have to pay a subscription to Netflix as well as buy my own data/internet,” he says.

“But, hey, this is South Africa for you. They will try and take the last cent out of their people not thinking about the cost of living and the already messed-up economy.

“The excuse is it probably would boost the economy. How is an extra TV license going to employ more people? But, as I said, this is South Africa, nothing surprises me anymore.”

As this was a proposal made to a parliamentary portfolio committee, the proposed regulations have not been made official or implemented.

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