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DA: Statement by Natasha Michael, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of communications, calling for the Draft Public Service Broadcasting Bill to be withdrawn (15/11/2010)

15th November 2010


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The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the Department of Communications' hosting of Oral Hearings on the Draft Public Service Broadcasting Bill (PSB), and welcomes that the Department has afforded stakeholders an opportunity to clarify written submissions made on the Bill. However, the DA believes that this Bill should be unconditionally withdrawn, as it contains too many problematic provisions, including centralising the control of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in the hands of the Minister of Communications, and the introduction of a 1% personal income tax, which the Treasury has already indicated is completely unfeasible.

A copy of our submission on the bill can be found here.


The bill seeks to grant wide-ranging powers to the Minister of Communications, therefore effectively placing the control of the SABC with the Minister as a member of government and the executive. For example, section 37 of the Bill allows the Minister to "...instruct the board to take any action specified by the Minister if the Corporation is in financial difficulty, unable to perform its functions effectively or fails to comply with any law." Through the issuing of such directives to the Board, the Minister would effectively be usurping the Board's authority and independence. Also in the addendum to the Bill, the Charter of the Corporation contains a provision that the board may only appoint the Group Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and their equivalents after consultation with the Minister. This would have the effect of giving the Minister the prerogative to appoint the senior management of the SABC.

Furthermore, it is unclear why the Department of Communications would still be pursuing the imposition of a 1% personal tax, after the Minister of Finance made it clear, publicly, that he had not been consulted over the proposal, and is in not in favour of it. In response to a DA parliamentary question in December last year, Minister Gordhan stated that the Department of Communications' proposal "is not prudent" and "is not under consideration by the National Treasury" because earmarked taxes are inefficient, limit fiscal space, and make it difficult to hold departments accountable for their spending. The SABC has a history of failing to hold its staff accountable for misspending and the imposition of the tax would see the SABC granted an annual windfall with no conditions attached.

The PSB, as it currently stands, is highly problematic. As an alternative, the Broadcasting Act of 1999 should remain in force, with amendments that will ensure that:


• The Board of the SABC is adequately performance-managed in order to ensure that the broadcaster is not further plagued by financial problems as a result of financial mis-management and a lack of accountability; and
• The regulations governing the television licensing regime are revised so as to ensure maximum license revenue, and make it possible for more and more South African citizens to take ownership of their public broadcaster.

If the new Minister of Communications, Roy Padayachie, is indeed committed to restoring good governance, financial prudence and public confidence in the SABC, it would behove him to withdraw this Bill.



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