Dept notes public reaction to draft Bill

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pretoria - The Ministry of Communications has noted public reaction to the draft Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Bill recently released by the Department of Communications.

The PSB Bill, which seeks among other things to abolish TV licences, was published in the Government Gazette on 28 October 2009 for public comment.

According to the gazette, the aim of the Bill is to repeal the Broadcasting Act, 1999, so as to align the broadcasting system to the developmental goals of the country and to establish a Public Service Broadcasting Fund to fund public broadcasting in the country.

"It is important to note that this is simply a process aimed at getting the nation to make inputs on how best the Public Broadcaster could be resourced to ensure that it meets its mandate of delivering quality, reliable services to the public," the department said in a statement issued on Monday.

The department said no decision had been taken with regard to the collection of revenue to establish and sustain the proposed Public Service Broadcast Fund.

"The draft bill raises several proposals on the best possible way of creating a sustainable funding mechanism through which the SABC can efficiently deliver on its mandate.

"The idea of raising funds for the Public Broadcaster through a tax levy is one of a variety of options being proposed in the discussion document."

It is also important to note that tax policy resides in the National Treasury and any decision that relates to tax matters would have to be taken in consultation with National Treasury.

Exploratory discussions have however taken place between the department and the South African Revenue Services to discuss a possible collection system.

"The present manner in which the Public Broadcaster raises funds cannot be relied on," the department said, adding that hundreds of thousands of people do not honour their obligations of paying TV license fees.

"This leads the Public Broadcaster in a dire situation where it has to spend millions of rand in debt collection services in a bid to recover the revenue due to it."

The department also dismissed assertions by some concerned groups that the proposed changes raised in the document would seek to give the Minister of Communications the authority to interfere on editorial policy of the Public Broadcaster.

"The Minister of Communications understands the importance of independent media that serves as a watchdog for the public and would never seek to undermine this principle.

"We will continue to explore reliable and sustainable ways through which the SABC can best respond to the needs of the public."