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SABC funding not in place

January 17, 2024

By Chris Forrester

South Africa’s SABC public broadcaster is in dire financial straits, but a government initiative to see funding secured is far from certain.

A new SABC Bill, which was open to public discussion until January 16th, is not likely to be resolved and converted into cash for some time.

South Africa’s ‘Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’ (Outa) has warned that the SABC needs strong legislation and policies to restore public trust and guarantee editorial independence, as well as a much stronger funding strategy.

“It is an undeniable fact that the SABC has been plagued for years by financial instability and management issues,” Outa said in its submission to the SABC Bill’s discussion document.

“There is no doubt about the SABC’s value as a public broadcaster and we believe this role needs support. In particular, funding is one of the most critical areas of the SABC’s model that has failed – and something the new SABC Bill unsuccessfully tries to address,” said Outa.

Outa’s senior legal project manager, Andrea van Heerden, has reportedly said: “The bill has effectively kicked the funding can down the road by not laying out any specific changes or proposals. Instead of the bill dealing with the SABC’s financial crisis, TV licences remain, and the ministers of communications and finance are alone tasked with identifying a new funding model.”

There is significant non-payment of the licence fee, and Outa is suggesting that the fee should be replaced by a government grant.

“This regular annual state grant could be seen as a grant in the furtherance of democracy. Outa suggests cutting funding to wasteful programmes and diverting some of this to the SABC. For example, the national and provincial legislatures could provide some funding in the furtherance of democracy. These institutions manage to provide hundreds of millions of rand to political parties to support democracy, and Outa believes that some of these funds could be more usefully diverted to the SABC,” said Van Heerden.

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