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Protests against SABC proposals

January 23, 2024

By Chris Forrester

South Africa’s public broadcaster SABC is out of cash, and the government has presented a new SABC Bill which proposes examining the existing licence fee, which is widely ignored.

The new Bill aims to “regulate the continued existence of the SABC to provide public broadcasting services that contribute to democracy, development of society, gender equality, nation-building, the provision of education, and to strengthen the spiritual and moral fibre of society”.

The Bill does not see the end of the despised licence fee, and says the SABC should be funded from a mix of advertising, subscriptions, sponsorships, licence fees, government, donations or “any other amounts to which the corporation may become entitled”.

The opposition Democratic Alliance is opposing the opposing the bill on the grounds that it does not provide a new funding model but instead creates a subsidiary commercial company and board, “which are not tasked with the SABC’s broadcasting and financial sustainability and are hence inexplicable”.

“Urgent change is required to the SABC’s funding model and is long overdue. With the SABC facing such financial unsustainability, one would think that new legislation would present a new funding model. The bill does not, and instead tasks the minister with developing a new funding model within three years of the bill’s commencement,” the Democratic Alliance stated.

Some of the country’s civil rights organisations including AfriForum which largely comprises the nation’s Afrikaner residents, are advocating a complete privatisation of the broadcaster. AfriForum says that mismanagement, its never-ending financial struggles and past instances of alleged corruption mean it is time for a fresh approach.

“An alternative source for funding could be through partnerships, sponsorships and collaboration with private entities. AfriForum envisions the SABC actively engaging with the private sector to secure financial support, which could include sponsorships for specific programmes, partnerships for events and collaboration with businesses. By diversifying its revenue streams, the SABC would be able to reduce its reliance on direct contributions from citizens,” says AfriForum.

Head of the Gibs Media Leadership Think Tank, and a former SABC board member, Michael Markovitz described the Bill as “very disappointing”. There is no policy change here – and up until now this has not helped to make the public broadcaster solvent, he said.

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