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Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni backs SABC on TV licence amnesty

A TV licence amnesty could be on the cards. File photo.
A TV licence amnesty could be on the cards. File photo.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni supports an application by the SABC for a TV licence amnesty.

The public broadcaster has written to the National Treasury asking for permission to grant amnesty to millions of South Africans who owe licence fees.

“We are trying to support the SABC on matters that will make sure the SABC is a sustainable and profitable organisation, and there are issues I am aware are of interest to yourselves, as it relates to the stability of the SABC — for instance, the matter of licence fees owed by members of the public,” Ntshavheni told parliament's select committee on public enterprises and communications on Wednesday.

“We have supported the SABC in their request for an amnesty on TV licence issues. We are awaiting the concurrence of the National Treasury to take the matter to cabinet to make sure there is an amnesty on TV licences.

“We believe that if the SABC achieves the amnesty, they will be able to use the opportunity to improve their financial standing.”

The cash-strapped public broadcaster has long battled to get South Africans to pay TV licences, and has been bailed out on numerous occasions by national government.

Last year, the SABC was forced to retrench staff as part of its turnaround strategy — a condition imposed by the Treasury for a bailout.

In 2017, the SABC wrote off almost R18bn in TV licence debt when it hired consultants to clean up its database. At the time it also found that some of those on the database were not supposed to be there or were deceased.

SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon said the payment of TV licences has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our debt collection agencies have been struggling to meet expectations. Again, it's because of the economic conditions that make it harder for our audiences to settle their licences as people have been losing their jobs.

“We have about 10-million licence holders, but just about 2-million of those settle their licences. We are able to collect just under about R900m of the R4bn [the SABC should collect],” Van Biljon said.



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