MultiChoice has called on the government to park a legislative proposal meant to enhance the SABC’s governance structures and finances pending a comprehensive review of the country’s broader broadcasting policy framework.

A Business Day report notes the Department of Communications has been holding public hearings on the draft SABC Bill, published for comment in July.

In its submission yesterday, MultiChoice said dealing with the SABC funding model now would be putting the cart before the horse. 

‘We first need a policy decision (not legislation) on what the SABC mandate is in 2021, not 1999, and what its scope of work will be in the new environment,’ said MultiChoice.

Such a review will also clarify the position of bigger players such as Netflix in today’s broadcasting environment.

MultiChoice said that the focus should be on finalising a separate but related draft White Paper or broad statement of government policy on audio and audio-visual content services.

The White Paper published in October 2020 asserts that the statutory definition of broadcasting services is too narrow and too platform-specific, ignoring streaming services such as Netflix.

It is suggested that the TV licence fee regime should consider devices such as tablets and smartphones as they can receive broadcast content.

‘SABC funding is a much bigger issue which requires careful policy consideration and clarity. Do not make any changes to the TV licence fee provisions at this stage pending finalisation of (the) White Paper process ... policy must be settled before legislation can be drafted and takes years to do properly,’ MultiChoice submitted.

Full Business Day report