PARASTATALS: Financing SABC Alternative
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THE Cape Chamber of Commerce has rejected the idea of a one percent levy on income tax as a means of financing the SABC as unfair, dangerous and unconstitutional.
Instead the SABC should find more efficient ways to collect licence fees such as contracting Telkom to do the job for them by adding monthly licence instalments to telephone accounts.
A legal opinion supplied by a Chamber member states that “The administrative action proposed in the Bill is arbitrary and unreasonable. No rational connection exists between the persons liable for the servicing of the costs of public service broadcasting and the use of such services by those persons liable for payment. There further appears to be no justifiable reason for exempting those non-taxpaying persons from paying for a service they may in fact be using.”
In addition the Bill would set a dangerous precedent as other State corporations such as SAA could then demand a levy on income tax to finance their losses.
“The Chamber believes that an SABC financed by monthly cheques from the Government would be beholden to the Government and that this would undermine editorial independence and the selection of programme content,” said Mr Albert Schuitmaker, acting director of the Chamber.
The broadcasting crisis was the result of poor management and the SABC should get itself out of debt by selling one of its assets such as TV3. It had sold radio stations before (such as KFM) with highly satisfactory results for both the SABC and listeners.
If the SABC followed its own precedent and sold TV3 there would be healthy competition between SATV, ETV and the privatised TV3.
The Chamber said that if the SABC broke the annual licence fee down into 12 instalments and contracted Telkom, which had an efficient billing system, to collect the money, the corporation would be assured of reaching the vast majority of TV viewers and a smooth cash flow. There could be exemptions for the very few Telkom customers who did not have television sets and the system could be extended to cell phones for those who did not have landlines.
“We have to come to terms with the fact that many people will soon be watching television on personal computers and cell phones so it makes sense to bring the broadcasting and telecommunications fields together for a single viewing licence and an efficient means of collecting licence fees,” said Mr Schuitmaker.
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