New tax 'will make the rich pay for television'

THE new bill proposing a 1percent tax to replace TV licence payments has come under scrutiny from all sectors.

Economists say the bill's tax proposal would hurt the rich, who will have "less take-home pay".

Russell Lamberti, a strategic economist, said higher income earners would end up "shouldering the burden of subsidising the SABC, while low-income earners will receive free television".

Lamberti said it was a "worrying trend" for the government to "try to levy more taxes in order to fund what are inherently inefficient organisations such as the SABC (and Eskom)".

The department of communications has cautioned that the proposed tax to replace TV licences is "one of a variety of options being proposed in the discussion document".

Other "options" in the bill include contributions from Parliament and business.

Tiyani Rikhotso, spokesperson for the department, said TV licence collection was inadequate to fund the SABC.

"The present manner in which the public broadcaster raises funds cannot be relied on.

"Hundreds of thousands of people do not honour their obligations of paying television licence fees," said Rikhotso. "That means the SABC has to "spend millions of rand on debt collection services in a bid to recover the revenue due to it".

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said TV licence fees "only accounts for less than 20percent of our revenue" and added that most revenue came from advertising.

He said viewers should not stop paying their TV licences according to the current law since the proposed bill was "in its early stages".

"This is a legislative process handled by the government," said Kganyago, adding that he could not comment further on the matter. "We do not know what the final outcome will be."

The DA said yesterday it was concerned that the proposed bill offers too much power to Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda and described the bill as an attempt by Nyanda to "stick his nose where it does not belong".

DA MP Lindiwe Mazibuko said: "Nyanda has wasted no time in capitalising on the financial woes at the SABC in order to justify increased state intervention in the running of the public broadcaster."

Rikhotso rejected the DA's allegations and said Nyanda "understands the importance of independent media that serves as a watchdog and would never seek to undermine this principle".