South Africa: Dual-Financing Model for Public Tv ‘Harmful to Local Content’

Investment

Dual commercial and public funding in public service broadcasters does not work because inevitably the bottom line becomes the biggest consideration and takes precedence over providing relevant local content, broadcast expert Ruth Zanker said 13 January. Funding for the cash-strapped SABC has become a hotly debated topic following the publication of the draft Public Service Broadcasting Bill, which proposed moving away from licence fees towards alternative funding such as a 1% tax and broadcast licence fees, while still placing some reliance on advertising.

Some SABC stakeholders have expressed concern that greater reliance on the government could equate to greater interference by the government. The government funds only 3% of the SABC, which derives more than 80% of its income from commercial revenue and the remainder from TV licence fees, making the organisation vulnerable in an economic downturn.

Zanker told Business Day that increasing pressure from the New Zealand government for public service broadcaster Television New Zealand (TVNZ) to perform commercially was threatening its future. Zanker is head of research and a senior lecturer at the New Zealand Broadcast School and is founding chair of the Children's Television Foundation which helps fund local television for children.

The emphasis on the bottom line sees less local content and more cheap imports."New Zealand citizens do not care about TVNZ any more because it's followed the commercial line rather than the public service line," she said. "The government does not see why it should be involved in media and they are even less interested after the recession which saw TVNZ making less money commercially.If they try to do that, those of us in the broadcast sector will oppose it," Zanker said.

Business Day 13th January 2010