Policy changes mooted for SABC, public broadcasting

Minister wants her dept to accelerate plans to review the changing environment

Policy changes mooted for SABC, public broadcasting

26 June 2018

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has invited the public and industry role players to provide comment on her department's plans to revise policy in the public broadcasting sector.

Mokonyane told the media in Pretoria on Monday that her department wanted to accelerate plans to review the changing environment in the sector amid financial and organisational challenges faced by the SABC.

There have been strong calls for the SABC's funding model to be reviewed. Despite being forced to deliver on its public mandate, the model relies on 85% of the revenue coming from the SABC's commercial arm.

The minister said that the changes to how the SABC was funded and operated were long overdue.

"We understand the anxiety around this policy as it charts the new frontiers of our broadcasting landscape after 20 years," she said.

"We, therefore, have to move with speed in finalising this new policy."

The main issues flagged in the department's "Issues Paper" include:The three-tier broadcasting system (public, commercial, community);Ownership and control rules;Capacity of the information regulator;Strengthening of free-to-air platform, particularly the SABC;Competition issues between public and subscription broadcasters;Dwindling of local languages; andSkills capacity.

The "Issues Paper" will be released on the department's website in the next few days, and Mokonyane wants input from the public, starting with public broadcasting.

"We have already issued a notice inviting stakeholders to submit issues for consideration on matters pertaining to the SABC's mandate, funding model, including TV licence fees, governance and accountability measures.

"The issue of an appropriate funding model of the public broadcaster has been deferred for too long and we hope these focused discussions on the public broadcaster will finally resolve it."

The due date for public submission on the notice is "mid-July 2018".

Thereafter, a colloquium will be held in August where a report will be presented on the submissions. The report will be published for comment.

The department hopes to submit a white paper to Cabinet between October and the end of the year.

Public broadcasting remained a significant source of information, knowledge and entertainment for a majority of citizens, Mokonyane said.

"The demands of the fourth industrial revolution require us to build and maintain collaborative partnerships with the sector for us to bridge the digital divide and overcome social inequalities, unemployment and potential job losses."