South Africa: The SABC's Radical Idea - Let DStv Collect Fees


What are we to make of the SABC's proposal that DStv collects television licence fees on its behalf? It's a radical proposal, born of desperation, at an institution that has been degraded by poor management, huge reputational damage and a perverse set of incentives.

First published in Daily Maverick 168.

On paper the SABC's overall mission is unimpeachable. As veteran broadcaster David Smith points out, of the 10 most-listened-to radio stations in the country, nine are run by the SABC. They are almost all vernacular stations that probably wouldn't exist if it weren't for the SABC's system of cross-subsidising. On television, the SABC produces four of the top five most-popular programmes.

But that is only one side of the story. I spoke this week to SABC's chief operating officer, Ian Plaatjies, and his confidence in the SABC's overall product is extremely high. That surprised me because, perhaps like so many other people in South Africa's middle class, I have long ago drifted away.

Offend no one, please no one

The SABC has popular productions, but generally they are soap operas. News production is occasionally good, but generally basic and flat. It seems it's trying so hard to offend no one...

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