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Cord cutters: You still need to pay your SABC TV licence!

'Cord cutters' and 'cord nevers' are proud of the fact that they don't fall into the description of a typical TV audience, but the SABC is now calling on all who watch televised content to pay up for TV licences - even if they don't watch on traditional TV sets.
© Brett Lamb via 123RF

TV licences have long been a contentious issue, especially amongst the new-generation cord cutters and cord nevers.


So are cord cutters, as by definition, they’re those who no longer subscribe to satellite TV services, instead choosing to watch streaming content on devices other than a television set.

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Ross Sergeant explains that fibre is our new umbilical cord, and that those Netflix-loving cord cutters are on the rise, as are ‘cord nevers’, who have never had a cable or satellite subscription and rely on the likes of YouTube for their ‘home entertainment’.

Why do you need a TV licence if you don’t own a traditional TV set?

In addition, they don’t necessarily even own a TV set, as they watch shows on their mobile phones, iPad and laptops.

Even worse? The purchase of a television – whether it’s the latest flat-screen or an old-school cathode ray tube special – is usually how you get signed up for a TV licence account.

Now, the SABC is cutting back, with MyBroadband reporting that SABC has confirmed:
a PC monitor connected to a VCR means you must pay a TV licence.
It’s a contentious issue, because you don’t need a TV licence to buy a PC monitor or display without TV tuner capabilities, but if your monitor is connected to certain devices, you are now eligible to pay the R265 annual fee – that’s roughly 72c/day, according to EWN – with a potential fee hike on the cards.

That’s because MyBroadband explains:
Any combination of devices – a VCR, DStv or M-Net decoder or DVD recorder linked to a monitor, plasma or LCD screen – is also defined as a TV set. When the monitor becomes a “TV set” its user becomes liable to pay for a TV licence.
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By Jason Snyman 18 Sep 2018

And TV licence fees remain amongst the largest sources of revenue for the cash-strapped SABC.

Yet, while the civic-minded among us religiously pay the annual fee, others are happy to wait for those much-hyped TV licence inspectors to knock on their door.

SABC launches TV licence inspectorate

The SABC has launched a TV licence inspectorate that will see contracted inspectors knocking on people's doors to check if they are in possession of a valid TV licence. “We need to rely on sources of income such as TV licences to ensure our independence as the public service broadcaster, as we cannot entirely rely on government funding,” group CEO Dali Mpofu told the media briefing yesterday, Tuesday, 26 June 2007, in Auckland Park.

By Issa Sikiti da Silva 26 Jun 2007

In fact, according to the EWN, out of the 9m accounts on the SABC database, only 1.8m households are paying their licence fees.

Compliance, enforcement and penalties

But The Citizen reports that South Africans have taken to social media to voice their disapproval at calls for them to cough up.

Some feel the SABC should get MultiChoice to pay rather than individuals, as paying a licence fee over and above your DStv subscription fee is seen as ‘excessive’.

But the SABC is sticking to its guns and looking at ways of tightening up compliance and stricter enforcement, with penalties for non-payment.

Special TV license fee courts in Ghana target defaulters

When you default on payment of your TV license fees in Ghana, you are hauled into court. But the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation has now been ordered not to prosecute defaulters...

By Nana Yaa Ofori Atta 26 Jan 2018

Earlier this year, Ghana set up special TV licence courts for defaulters on paying the annual fee – they faced a fine or a prison term up to 12 months.

But following outcry and concern from the general public, Ghanaians have since been assured not to entertain fears of any such possible prosecutions, with Ghana’s National Media Commission exploring a more sustainable funding module.

Changing the definition of TV-viewing in 2018

It’s a smart move, especially if you consider internet connections getting cheaper and faster all the time, and frustration at the pay-TV model ever on the rise, we’re likely to end up with a larger proportion of cord cutters and cord nevers than ever before.

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By Leigh Andrews 30 Aug 2017

How much fibre speed do you really need?

How much Mbps (read speed) do you really need from your new fibre connection for your household?

By Jacques du Rand 4 Sep 2018

The reasoning is simple: Traditional and even pay-TV are known for being highly repetitive – instead, you can download what you want, skip through those annoying ads, and binge-watch entire seasons in one go.

With more distractions and less leisure time than ever before, it’s the way to go if you can afford the internet required to download that content unless the SABC comes up with a way to make traditional TV more appealing to the masses...

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About Leigh Andrews

Leigh Andrews (@leigh_andrews) is Editor-in-Chief: Marketing & Media at, with a passion for issues of diversity, inclusion and equality. She's also on the Women in Marketing: Africa advisory panel, was an #Inspiring50 2018 nominee, and can be reached at ...

Read more: TV licence, SABC, streaming