Recent controversies surrounding the financial crisis the SABC now finds itself, along with several other issues, concerned citizens believe it’s high time the broadcaster is sold off.
Van Staden, a legal researcher at the Free Market Foundation also buys this idea saying the broadcaster should be sold off to real business people.
According to him, the dishonest activities of the parliament overt the state of the state own broadcaster points to how government regards its governed and therefore to put to an end this legalised extortion, the Broadcasting Act should be repealed and the SABC be broken up.
Van Staden’s comment comes as a reaction to the highly condemned decision by the SABC board to impose licensing on other “viewing devices” like phones and tablets in its bid to increase its income and fight its financial crisis.
Imposing licensing on other viewing devices will automatically mean that South Africans’ tablets, computers, and possibly even cell-phones will require licences for which fees must be paid.
The SABC also plans to force DStv to collect TV licence fees on its behalf – a service.
To this, the legal researcher cum Academic Programmes Director of Students For Liberty in Southern Africa expressed his fury, saying that phones, computers, tablets and televisions which are now widely used were innovations of some private sectors and voluntary market interaction, not state generosity.
Thus for the state to presume that it is justified in compelling the people to acquire licences to use and benefit from these devices is deeply patronising and beyond the scope of the social contract, he said.
Where in the mandate of the state, often called the ‘social contract’, does perpetually forcing citizens to cough up funding for unprofitable, mismanaged state enterprises fall?
The theory behind a state-owned enterprise is that it is supposed to function like an ordinary company, despite being owned by the government.
Imagine what would happen if, say, Pick n Pay announced in parliament that, to improve its financial situation, it would be forcing consumers to pay an annual refrigerator, microwave and toaster licence fee. This, quite rightly, would be considered outrageous, condescending, and extortion. Yet, for entities like SABC, SAA and Eskom, the response to the abuse we often suffer is dead silence, Van Staden went on to say.
SABC has approached the state treasury for fund to help stave off its imminent financial collapse.
Mayihlome Tshwete, the spokesman for Gigaba, confirmed last month that the Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo had informed the finance minister that her department was preparing a “formal request” to the Treasury for a bailout.
“We are facing a financial crisis,” admitted James Aguma, acting SABC CEO to the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications who went on to table to the parliament the financial state of the broadcaster.
The SABC’s funding is comprised of licence fees (11%), advertising revenue (76%), sponsorships (5%) and less than 3% from government.
In sum, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo told the National Assembly that the public broadcaster racked up an operating loss of more than R500 million in the first quarter of this year.
Reacting to this, Van Staden said if parliament entertains the SABC’s demands, it will be glaringly obvious that, instead of seeing itself as the servant of the people, the government sees the South African taxpayer as an ATM that can be abused until no money remains
Much is being said about ‘radical economic transformation’ in the national discourse, and this should be welcomed in this context, but the only ‘radically transformative’ action that can be taken here is to repeal the Broadcasting Act and end government’s control of broadcasting enterprises in South Africa. The SABC must be broken up and privatised, Van Staden said.
The researcher criticised the Broadcasting Act is a product of an apartheid-era mentality that rejects the notion of a sovereign people and a subservient state.
He went on to refer to the act as a despicable affair which should practically be set aside as the new constitution has. “Radical economic transformation in broadcasting cannot take place until the SABC is no longer a state-owned enterprise,” he said.
With low growth forecasts and widespread economic uncertainty because of a government unsure about its own electoral prospects, it is baffling that the national broadcaster can so casually insult the South African people, the Legal Researcher and Academic Programmes Director ended saying.