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TV licences to watch Netflix? What to know about the SABC proposal

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Social media was full of reactions to news that Netflix and MultiChoice may be asked to collect TV licence fees for the SABC from South Africans using their services.

The news comes from a presentation by Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana on 20 October (reported on by MyBroadband).

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Kekana presented the document and proposal during a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications briefing.

The briefing concerned the SABC, its skills audit report, detailed expenditure patterns, a breakdown of costs, details of companies contracted to the SABC, and outstanding recommendations from the committee in relation to the public broadcaster.

The briefing was streamed on Parliament’s YouTube channel.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the deputy minister’s briefing…

Other devices for TV licence fees in South Africa?

The proposal regarding other TV licence revenue streams was made during Kekana’s overview of key SABC priorities moving forward. The department has been asked to support the SABC with these priorities.

This includes helping the broadcaster with urgent policy and legislation reforms to increase its revenue. Reforms concern those around TV licences and SABC content licensing.

Kekana said that the department is looking at ways that licencing fees can be collected from pay-TV channels that carry SABC content. But she noted that the department is looking at other devices used to stream SABC content from these providers.

“But we are not only limiting it to TV, we also have other platforms where people consume content. And in all those areas, that’s where we should look at how we are able to get licence fees, SABC licence fees, from those gadgets,” she says.

For example, users of the DSTV Now app are able to view SABC content on streaming devices (without a TV). While the deputy minister did not identify the service by name, it’s likely that it is this type of scenario that she is referring to.

SABC proposal for TV licences from Netflix and MultiChoice

During the briefing, viewers were also able to see the executive summary from an SABC and ICASA meeting prepared for the deputy minister.

It is this portion of the document that refers to Netflix and video-on-demand services.

“Regulation is needed on pay service providers like MultiChoice and subscription video-on-demand providers like Netflix to collect TV licence on behalf of SABC similar to municipalities collecting traffic fine and motor vehicle dist[sic] from motorists,” the document says.

In addition, the SABC proposes that the definition of a TV licence needs to be expanded. According to the SABC, it needs these reforms to remain viable in a changed market environment.

The broadcaster also wants the right to negotiate for content licencing with pay-TV and other providers (rather than having SABC content automatically carried on these services at no cost to distributors).

The SABC has also proposed that national sports rights should be available to the broadcaster at an affordable price.

However, it appears that these proposals are part of discussions with the Department of Communications to increase SABC revenue. There does not appear to be any tangible legislation or finalised guidelines yet.

Other discussions include SABC investment in more content and amendments to the broadcasting bill to reflect the modern broadcasting landscape

Feature image: SABC

Read more: South Africa gets spotlight in upcoming Netflix Original for festive season

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