Hoax statement falsely claims South African broadcaster to charge motorists ‘radio licence’ fee

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As the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) financial woes worsen, a statement has emerged on social media claiming that the public broadcaster plans to introduce a licence fee for motorists with radios installed in their vehicles. But this is false: the corporation has distanced itself from the statement, calling it “fake”.

The purported statement was published on Facebook on May 8, 2023 with a caption that reads: “#SABC needs 'Car’ Radio Money..!! (sic).”

Screenshot showing the fake statement, taken on May 17, 2023

The undated statement appeared to be written on a real SABC letterhead and included the correct name and contact details for the organisation’s spokeswoman.

It claimed that SABC had introduced the car radio licences in a bid to generate new revenue streams in the face of a decline in TV licence revenues.

The document was also shared on Twitter in May 2023.

SABC is South Africa’s public broadcaster. In recent years, it has faced financial challenges, reporting losses (archived here) and job cuts (archived here). In the 2021/2022 financial year, it reported a net loss of 201 million rand ($10.9 million), albeit a significant improvement from the year before.

However, the purported statement is a hoax and the claim it makes is false.

Fabricated statement

SABC distanced itself from the circulating document, telling AFP Fact Check that “the statement is not from us, it is a fabrication”.

SABC subsequently posted a message on its official Facebook account warning South Africans that the communication was “fake”.

“The SABC has not issued any media statement making such public pronouncements regarding licences for car radios,” said CEO Madoda Mxakwe.

The South African government also published the SABC denial.

The hoax statement mentions “section 69 of the telecommunications act of 1996”, claiming the legislation compels South Africans who drive vehicles fitted with radios to pay for a car radio licence.

However, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (archived here) was repealed (archived here) and replaced by the Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the body charged with approving broadcast licences in the country, told AFP Fact Check that “we have not authorised SABC to issue such a licence to motorists in the country”.