SABC Monitor Tax: Is this a tax on general-purpose computing?

TECH Website Mybroadband are reporting that “SABC has started demanding that South Africans pay TV licence fees for computer monitors, even if they are not receiving broadcast signals on these devices.”

Hanno Labuschagne writes: “As has been the case for the past few years, the annual e-mailed TV Licence Renewal Notice letter explains that broadcasting legislation requires that owners of a TV set must have a valid (paid-up) TV licence.

“However, this year’s notice comes with an additional sentence stating the definition of a TV set includes a “TV monitor (without receiving capabilities) able to receive a broadcast signal by virtue of being connected to any television receiving equipment.”

“The broadcaster specified that the receiving equipment could include a “digital box/decoder, DVD [player] or PC”.

This looks a lot like a tax on general-purpose computing and echoes earlier 2020 proposals to tax the Internet. It is far worse than the proposed Household “Hut” tax that I wrote about here in March 2022. Similar hair-brained schemes to force computer users to get ‘drivers licenses’ were once proposed by attorney Ray Brink, formerly of the Computer Education Computer Society (CECS).

If SABC are allowed to tax monitors and PCs by treating such devices as a source of revenue, they are likely to target any Internet-connected device, including your Laptop and Xbox.

In essence a tax on the tools of your profession and trade in addition to entertainment, and thus an assault upon constitutional rights.

Previous proposals to tax internet connected devices would mean the broadcaster would have been taxing copyrighted content and material for which it may not have express permission to resell nor benefit.

This time around, it looks the state broadcaster is rolling out a simple ‘dumb-tax’ which professes to ignore connectivity and instead relies upon novel definitions of what constitutes a monitor or computer device, this in order to supplement income from advertising and funding from government.

It remains to be seen whether the public broadcaster, which is a merely a company incorporated under the Companies Act, but subject to broadcasting legislation, has the authority to do so without the matter first being debated and tabled in Parliament.

Cartel, schmartel, tickets please

APPARENTLY the #SABC #Primedia and #SterKinekor will ‘have to pay millions of rand in penalties for cartel behaviour’ says the Competition Commission. The companies have apparently admitted to the charges.

The findings related to the way tickets are sold and the decision, fails to tackle the larger problem of real cartel behaviour in the media.

A year ago, the Competition Commission announced that it was investigating 28 media companies, including Media24 for collusion on advertising pricing.

Compcom has a habit of narrowing the focus of its investigations.

In 2015 Medialternatives exposed a major cartel active in South Africa’s media, the work of several Afrikaner businessmen, and all impacting upon newsroom censorship and the way the nation receives its news.

We also documented the changing fortunes of the cartel in 2017.

The commission however, has yet to make any determination regarding a complaint of a cross-linked, networked behemoth that emanates from the brains behind Rupert Bellegings.

Digital television could bring internet services to the poor

Kreatels IP-STB 1520
Kreatel's IP-STB 1520

WILL South Africa’s entry into digital television – the migration from analog waves to a digital signal – bring internet services to the poor? There is no reason why not since the technology to provide IP bandwidth over television has existed for years. It only takes guts and determination from the national broadcaster and in particular ICASA the national regulator. IP services have been offered via satellite for years, but high entry costs have prevented the average consumer from making use of such services. Now with the move towards a digital television platform, more affordable onramp to the information superhighway could be in the offing.

In 2004 Kreotel launched an IP/digital terrestrial set-top box that with a built-in DVB-T tuner that combines access to digital terrestrial television, IPTV and enhanced services. Since current DSL provided by parastatel Telkom is expensive and low bandwidth offered by cellular operaters does not provide much of an alternative, such a system could revolutionise the way internet is provided to the  masses. As far as I can gather, the only problem with IP via digital television is that most of the traffic is one-way, since it is difficult to provide the same level of interactivity found on a land-based DSL platform, but for those high downloads, digital television could be ideal. DSTV users on South Africa’s pay-television channel already have a measure of interactive services, and such services could be increased tenfold if the engineers get their calculations right.

So, let’s free up some much needed bandwidth by demanding internet services with our television licence. You heard this from the DRL Blog first, go forth and prosper.

LINK: Kreotel launches combined IP/digital terrestrial set-top box