“The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a petition to oppose the government’s plans to extend TV licence fees to streaming services like Netflix and Showmax.” – My Broadband
The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is set to present its proposal to extend the payment of TV licence fees to include streaming services like Netflix as of 25 November 2020.
The Broadcasting Act currently requires South Africans to pay a TV licence fee for viewing “broadcasting services”. South Africans are also not allowed to buy a television without a TV licence, a requirement that is enforced by retailers.
Failure to be in possession of a valid television licence when owning a television and watching broadcasting services is a civil offence. Any person who fails pay their TV License is committing an offence and is liable, upon conviction in a criminal court, to a fine not exceeding R500 in relation to each offence and/or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.
As it currently stands, the definition of “broadcasting services” applies to content viewed on a television. The department now wants to broaden the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online broadcasting services.
If this proposal goes through, it means that people will require a TV licence to watch streaming services like Netflix, Apple +, Showmax, and Amazon Prime.
This is part of an attempt to increase TV licence revenue and compliance, which has come under pressure over the past few years.
The SABC’s annual report for the 2019/2020 financial year revealed that less than a quarter of TV licences were paid over last year. This is due to the mass migration from traditional television to streaming services.
This new implementation however does come with a few concerns. One major concern being that if you are subscribed to multiple streaming services for example Netflix, HBO and Prime Video, this new regulation is unclear on if you will be paying one fee as a end user or multiple TV License fees for every subscription registered to you.
The DA’s campaign follows the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (Outa’s) call to scrap TV licences altogether.
TV licence revenue declined by 18% year-on-year to R791 million, which the broadcaster said was due to the delayed use of debt collection agencies in this period.
Instead of trying to improve TV licence collections, Outa said the system should be scrapped completely.
“Incompetence, maladministration, and corruption at the SABC should not become a burden to successful private industries or South Africans,” it said.
“Any tax or levy that fails to achieve its purpose due to failed administration or unenforceable mechanisms should be closed down.”
It added that the proposed regulations have far-reaching implications for South Africans, including that owning a smartphone or tablet would require them to have a TV licence.
Outa added that content from on-demand services, like Netflix, would be regulated to ensure South African content is given airtime or face being blacklisted.
“This is a blatant rebuttal of freedom of choice, the democratisation of information and universal access,” said Outa executive manager Julius Kleynhans.
He added that whichever way you look at it, citizens once again have to pay for government’s incompetence and failure to run state-owned enterprises like the SABC.
“We fear that this will be another method of getting more money from citizens to fund the corrupt,” Kleynhans said.
Information provided by My Broadband