SABC wants South Africans to purchase TV licences for tablets, smartphones, and computer screens


The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has expressed the intent to ask for ammendments to the Electronic Communications Act that would make it compulsory for South Africans to purchase TV licences for “all devices they can view content on”.

These amendments would mean that South Africans would have to purchase TV licences for devices such as smartphones, tablets and computer screens.

James Aguma, the new SABC CEO, addressing parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday, stated that the SABC is preparing for a severe decrease in revenue from TV licences.  We will have to make drastic changes just to make sure we can survive the current crisis, Aguma said.  The SABC had over R400 million in losses last year.

One of the contributors to the losses suffered, is the drop in listeners to several of the SABC’s major radio stations, such as 5FM and Metro FM, that followed an announcement by the former SABC CEO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, that 90% of the music played on radio stations has to be locally produced.

According to Aguma, people’s usage patterns have placed even more strain on the broadcaster which is already coping with a less-than-ideal economic climate.  Users are choosing to view television content on devices that the SABC cannot, under current legislation, tap for revenue.

Aguma stated that the organisation’s bad reputation made consumers unwilling to pay their TV licences, and admitted that it has also dissuaded advertisers to some degree.

Parliament was presented a report in March in which the Auditor-General highlighted R5,1 milliard’s worth of irregular expenditures.


It is already surprising that the SABC had losses of only R400 million, considering they had ten times as much in irregular expenditures.

By hook or by crook (likely a bit of both) the SABC is going down the drain. It’s revenue is tanking, and in the midst of this decline the SABC has made a string of bad decision and committed what is probably the biggest mistake in South African broadcasting’s history.

First the SABC decided that it would not cover protests, a decision which was followed by unanimous public outcry and protests from journalists and reporters across the country and from every media.

Then they decide that 90% of all music played on radio must be by local artists, and 80% of all television content should be produced locally.  The South African media and music industries cannot produce enough quality content to fill such a gap, and this lead naturally to a severe drop in listeners and viewers.

All of this has tanked the SABC’s reputation, and as a result, it’s revenue.  But instead of performing some introspection and undoing some of their mistakes, they decide it is a good idea to shove their greedy fingers into the pockets of those who have already left their kingdom because they are unhappy with their content and policies.

It seems South Africa is taking cues from the German government, which recently decided that streamers require a €10 000 radio licence to stream.  But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the powers that be would want to extent their power and deepen their pockets.

This is clearly over reach on the part of the SABC.  Their youtube channels’ videos get less than a thousand views on average, often times only about 200-300, with barely any comment.  People aren’t watching the same content they previously would have watched on television, online, they are watching completely different content.  The SABC has no grounds on which to ask for this extension of the licencing requirements.

Their argument is literally:

  1. We aren’t making money.
  2. People are watching online content rather than ours.

Therefore we should tax those not watching our content and paying for it, as if they were.

This should be stopped.


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