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TV licence enforcement could become stricter, what this means for you

A picture of a couple watching football on the TV
(Image credit: Yamaha Music)

South Africa's saga with TV licences continues. This fee for having a TV has always been a major point of contention, as many don't pay up and the government has been trying to find ways to make sure we all do.

A new white paper published by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies outlines updates to the current Broadcasting Act which would make it easier for the government to penalise you for not having a TV licence. 

The amendments to the Act include broadening the definition and collection system for TV licences and strengthening enforcement and penalties for non-payment. 

While it has been difficult to enforce the current rules as it stands, if you have a TV and no licence and are caught, ignorance is unlikely to be a great excuse. Here is our TV licence 101. 

What is considered a TV? 

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) defines a TV as any device which is capable of receiving a broadcast television signal.

This means you may not have a traditional TV but if your PC is adapted to host a TV tuner card, it is considered a television under the licensing rules. 

This also means that smart TVs, which you may not have hooked up to accomodate for standard television count, even if you're only streaming Netflix. 

How much is a TV licence?

A TV licence costs R250 per year. Paying this up front is required for the first year but after that you can pay in monthly instalments of R28.

What happens if I have one and don't pay?

If you have an account and the SABC has registered you for a TV licence and you don't pay then you will be notified by the SABC lawyers that you owe them. 

For every month you don't pay there is a 10% penalty which can be added onto your bill for up to 10 months. 

What happens if I'm caught without one?

If you're caught failing to comply with the Act and handed a sentence of guilty by a judge, you can face a fine up to R500 or six months imprisonment or both. 

This is quite a strict sentencing already but as the SABC notes, there isn't very strong enforcement. 

Leila Stein is an experienced multimedia journalist and content producer with a special interest in data journalism. she is skilled in news writing, editing, online writing and multimedia content production and have a Bachelor of Journalism  from Rhodes University and an Honours in Historical Studies from University of Cape Town.