New SABC Bill another missed opportunity to resolve the broadcaster’s funding crisis

Issued by Natasha Mazzone MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies
05 Oct 2023 in News

Last week, Cabinet approved and submitted to Parliament the new SABC Bill. The Bill is meant to provide the SABC with an updated mandate for the digital era. It is also meant to provide the SABC with a new funding model.

The Bill completely falls short, as the Public Broadcaster continues to operate on its funding model from 1999. The new Bill also creates a Commercial Board, but shockingly, does not task it with resolving the SABC’s funding model.

To fulfil its Constitutional mandate, the SABC’s current model relies on public funding – from the fiscus and from TV Licences. The SABC needs more than R2 billion annually to operate and continually falls short of this target, as its funding model is outdated. TV Licences have long proven to not be an option. The evasion rate has continued to increase, climbing to 87% in 2023. The SABC is owed R44 billion in TV licenses, a massive financial hole that successive Ministers have failed to address. The SABC was also a target of ANC-sponsored State Capture, and as such, it has not turned a profit in more than a decade. This year, the SABC reported a financial loss of R1.13 billion.

The new SABC Bill was touted as turning the page, particularly as the SABC prepares for next year’s Election. The Public Broadcaster and its partners need assurance. Instead, Cabinet has presented another missed opportunity. As opposed to dealing with the SABC’s financial crisis, TV licenses remain, and deliberations on a new funding model are kicked down the road for three years. More so, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, alone is tasked with a new funding model.

The Bill’s Commercial Board, which reports to the main Board of Directors, is only responsible for the SABC’s “public commercial audio and audiovisual content media services”. It is shocking that Cabinet would approve legislation that adds nine more executives at the SABC, who will likely earn millionaire salaries, without tasking them with resolving the SABC’s finances!

Cabinet’s new SABC Bill is a disservice to the Public Broadcaster and to South Africans. Parliament must reject it and establish a team of market experts to draw up solutions to the SABC’s funding crisis.