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Petition opposes TV license fees for online streaming services in South Africa

(Image credit: TVwithThinus/Twitter)

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a petition that opposes the government's plans to rope streaming services such as Netflix into collecting TV license fees.

The petition encourages the population to make its views heard by February 2021 and has set a goal of 20 000 signatures.

The petition is prompted by the Department of Communications proposal to extend the definition of a 'broadcasting service' to include online broadcasting services, as is set out in the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audiovisual Content Services.

If the proposal is accepted it means that South Africans will have to pay a TV license fee if they stream 'broadcasting' content on their devices – in fact, the change in legislation will likely result in an increase in the price of streaming services regardless of the device users stream their content on.

The current law requires you to pay a TV license fee for viewing 'broadcasting services' – including subscription services like DStv – regardless of whether you consume SABC content or not.

However, traditionally 'broadcasting service' refers, and is limited to, content viewed on a television set. The Draft White Paper seeks to change this and broaden the definition to include online services, which means you would likely have to pay a license fee even if you do not own a television set.

The DA is firmly opposed to this change and says the SABC "must find creative ways to self-sustain and break-even without making people like you fork out any more money."

The proposal prompted an even more fiery response from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), which called for TV licenses to be scrapped completely and for the SABC's business model to be reviewed.

OUTA feels that the regulatory changes would have a detrimental effect on consumers and broadcasters, going so far as to say that the changes in the proposal are tantamount to a "rebuttal of freedom of choice, the democratisation of information and universal access."

You can read the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’, in the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020here.