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News: Lawmakers fiercely oppose TV license fee, as state broadcaster doubles fee in revised bill

From left: MPs Asemahegn Asres, Ashebir Woldegiorgis (PhD) and Aregash Tekle (from right to left) Photo: House of People’s Representative/Facebook

Addis Abeba – Members of the House of People’s Representatives have expressed their fierce opposition against a proposed TV license fee outlined in a new draft bill to re-establish the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).

In their 6th regular meeting of the second year of their term in office, the law makers have said Articles 17-20 of the proposed draft bill that allows the state broadcaster EBC to collect license fees from the public and penalize those refused to pay are not appropriate.

According to the proposed bil,l which was later on approved into a law despite oppositions from MPs, citizens will have to pay 120 Birr per year for one television set in their homes doubling from what was previously 60 birr. The bill also says citizens who do not pay the annual license fee will be imprisoned from one to five years or will be fined from 1000 to 5000 Birr.

For businesses, it has been stipulated that if they fail to comply with the law, their business license will not be renewed based on an agreement EBC is going to make with Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration.

According to the parliamentarians, the state broadcaster must provide interesting programs and up-to-date information that the public would choose to follow, before it starts to ask for a license fee.

MP Asemahgn Asres said that the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation has not been doing any significant journalistic work over the past seven decades since its establishment rather than “serving as a mouthpiece for different regimes”.

The MP said, “it is not operating free of political influence and gives no equal access to all political parties. Neither does it work to be a competitive media with other media.”

Another MP Negash Bulala said, “the institution is not offering appropriate media services to the public, which makes it incompetent.”

“It is not appropriate to approve a proclamation to collect money from the public at this time when the broadcaster is losing listeners, MP Ashebir Woldegiorgis (PhD) said, adding that, “Its products should be competitive and preferred over other media”. 

MPs also oppose the fact that the license fee penalty is linked to renewal of business licenses, while others raise questions over why a citizen should be forced to pay money for a TV station that they don’t watch its programs.

Besides, they said, as a public media, it shouldn’t use only one language for most of its time and that it would not be appropriate to endorse the bill allowing to collect fees from people to whom it provides no services in their mother languages.

Despite objections from the member of parliaments the bill has been approved into law being proclamation No. 1278/2015 with 44 votes against and 24 abstentions out of 240 members present. AS

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