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SABC to push up TV licence fees

2012-03-08 14:03
Cape Town – Just over two and a half years since the SABC received a R1.47bn bail-out from the South African government, the cash-strapped public broadcaster is planning to raise SABC TV licence fees.

Meanwhile, the SABC is also telling the government that the broadcaster is projecting a massive cash flow shortfall of millions if the SABC is to invest in digital terrestrial television (DTT).

This warning heralds possible additional funding help from the government for the SABC, which came to the brink of financial collapse in 2009.

Boost revenue

Latest report-back documents from the department of communications reveal that the SABC is planning a rate increase for TV licence fees which, according to law, is payable annually by all of the roughly 12 million TV households in South Africa.

A normal SABC TV Licence currently costs R250 per year.

The increase is set to boost the SABC's revenue derived from this source.

However, similar to several projects forming part of the SABC's turnaround-strategy, the broadcaster's TV licence increase is delayed and still pending approval from government.


The SABC has managed to improve its TV licence revenue collection from R868m in 2010 to R872m in 2011.

The SABC's target under its turnaround strategy is to increase this amount by a further R46m by March 2013.

The SABC is on track to make a net loss of R92m for this financial year - R105m lower than the R12m net profit that was expected at the beginning of the financial year.

Cash shortfall coming due to digital migration

The SABC is also already warning the department of communications that the public broadcaster will experience another new cash shortfall of R836m if the SABC is to invest in the process of digital broadcasting and digital terrestrial television, a switch-over process known as digital migration and something which all broadcasters have to undergo.

The SABC wants to increase its current three TV channels to 18 digital TV channels over the next two years as South Africa's broadcasting industry switches from analogue to digital TV broadcasts.

The SABC says it won't have enough money to do so without government help.

SABC3 'underperforming'

There is also concern about SABC3 - the SABC's only commercial TV channel.

The Monitoring Task Team (MTT) set up by the department of communications says SABC3 has been "underperforming in all aspects" with "declining audiences, declining revenue and brand integrity erosion".

A special SABC3 Channel Turnaround Plan will have to be submitted into the SABC's overall corporate plan for the next three years until 2015.

Content problems

According to the department's document, the SABC's content in general is also an apparent problem which has not yet adequately been addressed.

The SABC will have to prepare a special three-year commissioning and acquisition strategy and plan for both local and international programming that meets the SABC's mandate. This new three-year plan will also have to be incorporated into the SABC's overall corporate plan from this year.

While the SABC has managed to bring content and programming costs down, this cost-savings measure is happening at the expense of the local TV production industry since the broadcaster commissioned less shows and is spending less on programming.

"The low level of spending on content is worrying because of its long-term impact the quality of the content has on attracting audiences and advertisers," said the task team.

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