Do you need a TV licence for VoD?

By Staff Writer
With the rise in the number of video on demand (VoD) services, Justmoney has asked the question, ‘When do you need a TV licence?’
The answer is: unfortunately, you do. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), explained that any person who has a television (TV) in their possession or uses a TV needs a licence. This is laid out in the Broadcasting Act, No. 4 of 1999. According to this, “a licence is remains payable, irrespective of whether a television set in one’s possession is used or not.”
However, Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, noted that if you are making use of a VoD service, but are not watching on a TV set (and you do not own a TV set), you are not required to have a TV licence. So if you want to cut the costs when it comes to your entertainment subscribing to a VoD service and watching your videos and films on your lap top could save you lots of money.
The trouble is convincing the SABC that you do, in fact, not have a television and that you don’t use one. To cancel your license you have to do a number of things:  
Notify the SABC:According to the Government’s website, if you have disposed of your TV and it is no longer in use, you can cancel your TV licence by notifying “the SABC of your changed circumstances in writing on a pro forma affidavit which is available from your nearest SABC offices or by making the relevant statement at any Commissioner of Oath.”
“A television licence is not required when a person is no longer in possession of a TV set. The SABC must be notified on a prescribed form of the changed circumstances making possession of a TV licence unnecessary, as a result of the licensed television set having been sold/given away; stolen, repossessed or having broken down permanently. Such notice must be given by way of an affidavit/solemn statement by no later than 30 days after the end of a licence holder’s current licence year,” revealed the SABC.
If you have sold or donated your TV, the SABC needs the new owner’s particulars. If it was stolen you need to inform the SABC about the date of the theft, the name of the Police Station to which it was reported to and the case number it was awarded. Should your television have been repossessed, documentary proof in the form of a repossession letter from a dealer must be provided. If your television is broken confirmation that the set is permanently out of order is required – also by way of an affidavit.
Pay all the money owed:However, a TV licence cannot be cancelled if there are outstanding fees. The SABC explained: “A television licence does not “lapse” and isn’t “cancelled automatically” if payment is discontinued – prescribed obligations have to be complied with and documentation completed to have a television licence cancelled. 
Get rid of your television:According to the current legislation and the rules laid out by the SABC, it appears that a TV licence is not currently required for VoD service, but only if you watch these movies and TV shows on a mobile device and you do not own and use a TV.
“What a television set is used for is irrelevant in terms of the legal liability for payment of TV licence fees. As long as one has television receiving equipment in one's possession a licence remains payable. If one doesn't want to pay a licence, the SABC must be satisfied that one has no television receiving equipment in one's possession because such equipment has either been disposed of or denatured,” highlighted the SABC.
Update the SABC on any change of information: It is important to note that a TV licence is only valid for the permanent address that is reflected on the licence. This means that if you move homes, you will need to update your information, as your TV licence will no longer be valid. You are required to notify the SABC within 30 days of your change of address.
TV licences are payable in advance at the beginning of each licence year, and are valid for one year, according to the statutory obligations pertaining to a television licence on the SABC website.
The rise in VoD services
There have been two new entries into the VoD market, ShowMax and However, while there are new entrants into the market, one service provider, Altech Node, exited.
Goldstuck said: “[VoD] is a rapidly growing market, and that is primarily because it is still a very early market. Most of the players see massive growth coming and massive opportunity in the near future, so they are beginning to position themselves now for that substantial market. What you’re seeing right now you could almost say is the baseline of the new industry.”
According to Goldstuck, Altech Node was unable to survive in the VoD market because it created a number of barriers to users. These included the need for a decoder and satellite dish to make use of the VoD service. Other VoD services are online and require nothing more than an internet connection and a smart device to stream or download the content onto.
In addition Goldstuck pointed out that the Altech Node was also designed to be a smart home controller. Users could attach two devices to the Node, and for every subsequent device added there would be an additional monthly subscription cost.
“Node was just too complex, it was too expensive and it required too many steps in the process to get connected to it. Whereas all the online services simply require you to go on to a computer or mobile device and link to the service,” revealed Goldstuck.
The death of the television?
Despite the rise in VoD services and streaming content onto your computer and/or laptop, Goldstuck believes that TV sets are still going to remain the popular form of watching video content.
“Part of the appeal of a TV set is that it is social and communal, whereas watching on a small device is not. Part of the appeal of VoD is that you can link your device to a smart TV. If you have the right equipment (it does take a bit of technical expertise) you can link your devices to your TV set and view the content on the TV set. TV sets themselves won’t go away,” noted Goldstuck.
He added: “Everyone asks if this is going to damage DStv, and the answer is no. [This is for] two reasons. One is that most of DStv’s growth has come from their live sport domination, and none of the VoD services can compete on live sport. And the second aspect is that Naspers, who owns DStv, has very cleverly launched their own VoD service, ShowMax. And they have made it so compelling that a high proportion of the people who would drop DStv for a VoD service will in fact go to ShowMax. They are in effect cannibalising themselves, which is one of the recommended routes for companies to go in the digital era.”
*All information regarding the SABC TV licence has been taken from the SABC’s website. The SABC were contacted to provide further comment but had not responded at the time of publication. 

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