The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says it has lost over R600 million over the past two years, attributing the loss to a decline in audience.
According to a SAFM report on social media, the SABC says this is the most significant loss it has suffered to date.
SABC COO Ian Plaatjes attributed the decline in revenue to a loss of its viewer base.
During a hearing with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Plaatjes explained that the decline in viewers led to a reduction in advertising revenue.
“The decline in audience is multi causational and is a global trend, and there is not much that can be done about that,” he said.
SABC CFO Yolanda van Biljon said that one of the aspects driving the revenue decline is viewers’ migration to online platforms.
Van Biljon added that the SABC is shifting its focus to ensuring that it generates advertising revenue from digital platforms.
This will be achieved through its partnerships with Telkom and E-media, which will grant the SABC access to their platforms — from where it can generate revenue.
Plaatjes said that the broadcaster wants to launch its own over the top (OTT) platform later this year.
“SABC is at the final stage of accessing the sponsors of the digital platforms, and will have its own OTT platform in the market by the next quarter of the current financial year,” Plaatjes said.
In its annual report released at the start of October, the SABC told Parliament that TV licence revenue had declined by 0.4% to R788 million.
“This resulted in only 18% of the total licence fees billed being realised as revenue, which is very similar to that realised for the year ended 31 March 2020,” the SABC said.
These figures do not consider the suspected millions of households with TVs that the SABC is unaware of.
At the same time, the SABC’s advertising revenue plummeted by R740 million, an 18% decrease.
In its most recent presentation to Parliament, the SABC showed that its TV licence evasion rate increased from 80.6% in 2020 to 82.1% in 2021.
The SABC has proposed several alternatives to the current TV licence regime to address this growing problem, including requiring the dominant pay-TV service in South Africa to collect TV licence fees on its behalf.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and MultiChoice have criticised this proposal and instead backed the idea of a general public media levy.
The SABC also expressed concern earlier this year that it would lose viewers as South Africa rushes to switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.
Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni recently locked horns with the SABC over a statement it released highlighting its concerns over the slow rollout of set-top-boxes (STBs).
“As at February 2022, only 165,000 STBs out of the 2.9m indigent households (5.7%) had been installed in the four outstanding provinces.”
“This number is simply too low for the SABC’s analogue TV services to be switched off in the four largest provinces, at this stage,” it added.
These four outstanding provinces — Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape — are home to 68% of the country’s population.
The SABC also said that switching-off analogue TV could hinder its strategy to guarantee its long-term financial stability and fulfil its public mandate.
Ntshavheni met with the SABC to address the statement, which she said besmirched her political credentials.
The state-owned broadcaster ultimately apologised to the minister after she threatened to cut it off from its funding.
South Africa’s digital terrestrial TV migration has been continually delayed, with the deadline currently set for 30 June 2022.