“The State is legitimately empowered to make people pay for a TV licence fee Nothing can come free or cheap in this world”

MBC Licence Fees

Qs & As

By Lex

The amendment being brought to the MBC Act in the wake of the 2022-23 Budget and the Finance (Miscellaneous) Bill 2022 aims to bring a hammer on the public by raising the current fine to Rs 50,000 and adding a term of imprisonment on anybody possessing a TV set and not paying the Licence fee of Rs150. Several questions have been raised including about those who already pay MyT provider for all MBC channels, the regular abuse of the MBC Act provisions for government propaganda, and the scale of punishment proposed for a relatively benign administrative sanction. Lex shares his views on those matters.

* An amendment to the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (Collection of Licence Fees) Act contained in the Finance (Miscellaneous) Bill 2022 will raise penalties for those who fail to pay the Rs 150 TV licence from the current Rs 500-1000 fine up to a maximum amount of Rs 50,000; offenders also risk imprisonment not exceeding two years. Isn’t that a disproportionately high fine, being equivalent to the payment of the same Licence fee (at its current rate) for a period of 27 years and eight months?

There is no doubt that the State is legitimately empowered to make people pay for a TV licence fee. Nothing can come free or cheap in this world. Even if education and health care are free, all this is funded by taxpayers’ money. People should realise that if they have a TV set, they have to pay for the services that are provided by the MBC.

Admittedly the MBC has become a tool for the propaganda of the government and party in power. This propaganda is scheduled for about an hour or so in the news bulletins. The rest of the time the MBC features films or TV serials in European and Asian languages. All this must be paid for.

Having said this, the non-payment of the TV licence fee should be sanctioned and failure to do so is an offence. The penalty however should be fair and not disproportionate to the offence.

In a number of cases the Supreme Court has referred to section 7 of the Constitution which reads: ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment.’The Court has held that the effect of section 7 of the Constitution is to outlaw wholly disproportionate penalties.

The cursus of the jurisprudential thinking is that where punishment so excessive, so disproportionate must be imposed upon such a person, courts of law are justified in concluding that the law requiring the imposition of the same is inhuman. So, imposing a heavy fine or providing for imprisonment for non-payment of a TV licence would be inhuman and may struck down by the Supreme Court or the Privy Council on occasion. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 1 July 2022

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