The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has lobbied to include tablets, laptops and smartphones on the list of devices that require a TV license to help increase their income.
The draft document which included the provision was greeted with outrage as South Africans saw the move as another cash grab by the government to bail out the indebted SABC.
The department’s argument is that television is no longer the only place people watch shows and therefore they are missing out on income because fewer people are buying televisions. While this is partially true, the number of compliment TV owners is also low, as TV license payments have fallen in recent years.
Public comment has been requested and it appears the government has pulled back on one issue, smartphones. In the white paper, the Ministry removed smartphones from the list that require a TV license.
While still not official policy, it speaks to the absurdity that has been highlighted in requiring all South Africans to pay an annual license on their smartphone in addition to paying for the phone itself.
It remains to be seen whether smartphones will stay out of final policy. The comprehensive policy was widely criticized for its broad scope and it was noted how difficult its implementation might be.