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OPINION: Legalised theft or when is a TV not a TV?

If the SABC gets its way, you could be charged not once but three times for a third rate service.

LOOKS like I shall be in court soon, answering a charge of not paying my TV licence.

A week or so ago I received an email from a firm of debt collectors, who have been contracted to the SABC to collect unpaid licence fees.

After pondering the communication for a millisecond I decided that although the amount is small – R130,00 – it’s the principle of the thing dammit!

I placed the following points in a courteous reply:

“I am disinclined to pay a license for a service that I don’t make use of for the following reasons:

  • SABC is an inferior service, managed by political appointees with no broadcasting or communications competence.
  • SABC promotes ANC propaganda
  • I will not support such a scandal and debt ridden organisation  
  • Gross mismanagement has led to a financial loss of more than R400-m in the last 12 months and a slew of law suits that if proven, amount to more than R1-bn. A government bailout of over R3-bn is sought by the Minister.
  • I already pay for DSTV where I have the choice of both local independent and international news channels, international sport and entertainment.
  • Although free, I choose to subscribe to Fine Music Radio and listen to independent channels such as Cape Talk.
  • I object to having to pay a licence fee AND having to endure advertisements. One or the other but not both, although one pays a hefty subscription for DSTV, I overlook the ads due to the choice and content quality.
  • I pay for an internet service which includes access to a multitude of independent business, news and other services.

“While I appreciate that me paying a licence fee would help those less fortunate with access to a communications service, the SABC’s recent history (+R500-million debt, corruption, mismanagement and Hlaudi Motsoeneng et al), inferior content and political bias mitigates against this. Perhaps when the SABC is a truly independent broadcaster with competent management and staff, then I may consider paying a licence fee for a service that is worthwhile.”

I received a follow up phone call from the debt collectors who informed me that I had got it wrong about the licence fee – that it was the fee levied to operate a TV set, not to receive channels. OK, I said, and who is the recipient of the licence fee? The SABC I was told!

Now the SABC (thankfully) don’t make, sell or distribute TV or radio sets for that matter, or distribute the signal, so it is fairly clear to me that the licence fee that is levied is precisely used for providing ‘channels’ and content that I object to and don’t view or listen to.

I realise that I’m in contravention to section 27 of the Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999, but my TV set cant receive a terrestrial signal (as transmitted by the SABC) and is merely a monitor that can display a decoded satellite and /or an internet signal. 

As the dominant player, DSTV mostly pay for the content on their platform and then recover the cost from subscribers and advertisers, making a tidy profit in the process.

‘Mostly’ apparently doesn’t include the SABC channels, but if one chooses to watch the SABC’s offering via DSTV you’re paying for the privilege via the hefty subscription, whether DSTV are paying SABC or not. So paying a TV licence while receiving DSTV, means that you are effectively paying for the same inferior content twice.

But wait, there’s more! The SABC are now pushing for a licence fee for all devices that can receive an internet signal and potentially receive their broadcasts. So for a DSTV subscriber, you face the prospect of paying three times for the same lousy service! 



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