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'Pay TV must help collect licence fees'

2012-05-03 14:11
Cape Town – The SABC's new CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, told parliament on Wednesday that the public broadcaster wants pay TV operators to help with the collection of SABC licence fees from pay TV subscribers.

Pay TV in South Africa is making massive inroads in "stealing" viewers away from the SABC and with a growing number of pay TV subscribers refusing to pay their SABC TV licence fees, the public broadcaster wants pay TV operators to help with licence fee collection.

In 2007 the SABC, whose TV licence fee collection is showing only marginal growth, had a similar plan. The public broadcaster wanted South Africa's TV regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), to force pay TV operators to check whether subscribers have a valid SABC licence.

The SABC also indicated that it wanted to get the subscriber information from pay TV operators.

Bigger choice of channels

With competition getting tougher as new pay TV players enter the South African television market, Mokhobo told parliament that the growth in pay TV subscriptions and cheaper bouquets which lures more viewers away from the SABC will have "a serious and negative" impact on the SABC's income in years to come.

She said pay TV operators are stealing away viewers in the target demographics catered to by the SABC.

With cheaper satellite TV bouquets becoming available in South Africa, more people are getting access to and opt to become pay TV subscribers.

Due to the bigger choice of channels, they watch less SABC content. Icasa meanwhile is planning to licence more pay TV operators within South Africa.

Both and M-Net are set to expand with many more TV channels as they start their own multi channel bouquets as South Africa moves to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The explosion in the profusion of available TV channel choices will further audience fragmentation.

Satellite dish a status symbol

Mokhobo said a growing number of South African TV households view a satellite dish as a prestige status symbol and carried the perception of better television.

She said owners of houses in squatter camps or rural areas with a satellite dish mounted outside the house are very respected in their communities.

According to Mokhobo, the SABC does have good TV content and will have to devise a marketing campaign to fight this perception. The SABC plans to launch six of its planned new bouquet of TV channels for digital terrestrial television (DTT) within a year.

Mokhobo added that "legislative protection" is needed against TV owners who are not paying their annual SABC TV licence. The SABC feels that pay TV operators such as MultiChoice, TopTV and M-Net should be obliged to help in the collection of SABC licence fees.

The SABC said its especially high-income earners who pay for subscription television in South Africa who refuse to pay their SABC TV licence.

According to the broadcaster the collection of fees remains a huge challenge. The SABC’s income from licence fees remains mostly stagnant although the number of TV households in South Africa and pay TV households keeps growing.

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