File picture: Karen Sandison/Independent Media
South Africans are required to annually pay a R265 TV licence fee supposedly linked to the number of TVs in their homes or businesses. This fee is neither nominal nor substantive enough and generally going unnoticed as a tax payable to the public broadcaster.

While it may appear to be a large amount in dues, the fee collection and revenue constitute an exercise in futility when one considers the low rate of compliance, extensive ad spend, and massive amounts spent on debt collection. The TV licence fee is a 40-something year old tax designed around the BBC’s “non-commercial” model - advertising was (and to some extent still is) excluded. The SABC, although the public broadcaster, is a commercial entity with most of its income (relative to collected fees) from advertising.

When the public considers the massive bailouts it has received in the past few years we are paying fees that are irrelevant.

It almost appears as though there is a TV licence industry of administration (I’m guessing a bloated collection department). It is almost an imperceptible industry that adds little (if any) value except to its own incestuous, self-serving, existence.

Where will the money come from? Considering that the government has increased VAT, it would make sense to use this to supplement the SABC and move on from an archaic 20th-century tax.

President Ramaphosa has acknowledged the 4th Industrial Revolution will change society.

South Africans will either be led into it with new ways of thinking or will be dragged kicking and screaming. We need to proactively question how and why we do things and if they are relevant or value adding. In an age of internet streaming, vlogging, citizen journalism, Netflix, digital broadcasting, YouTube, cellphones, etc, we need 21st century ideas. My plea to the government is to scrap the TV licence.

It is an unnecessary and wasteful burden on citizens and would be much more valuable going into the economy of homes that need the money for basics. 15% will come back to the public purse anyway in VAT, compounded by the number of times it’s “spent on” in the economy.

We don’t always need radical solutions. Sometimes simple one will do just fine!

Zaakir Said


The Mercury

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.