Thursday, April 6, 2017

SOS Coalition: In financial meltdown and producers unpaid, SABC's 'infamous 90% local content decree' has left those meant to benefit with even less than what they started with.

With the beleaguered SABC in financial meltdown and producers and in-house service providers once again not being paid as the last of its cash is fast running out, the public broadcaster infamous 90% local content decree has left those meant to benefit with even less than what they started with.

So says the South African public pressure group SOS Coalition that supports better and responsible public broadcasting in the country about the cash-crumbling SABC that is once again fast approaching a financial cliff similar to 2009 when the SABC came to the brink of financial collapse.

The SABC was only saved through a government bail-out when the South African government was forced to act as a guarantor for a R1.4 billion SABC loan from Nedbank.

With the SABC running on empty and teetering on the brink of financial collapse as advertisers, viewers and listeners continue to flee, parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) has revealed that just 22 SABC executives at the SABC earn R43 million per year. Of these, 15 executives take home more than R2 million per year.

The SABC's dire cash flow situation became known in July 2016 after executives warned that the public broadcaster is rapidly running out of cash. It was already then revealed that the SABC allegedly plans to ask for another R1.5 billion bail-out.

Yet the SABC acting CEO James Aguma repeatedly kept saying - as recently as February this year in parliament - that there isn't a cash problem and that the SABC's finances are stable and satisfactory.

At the end of March the SABC abruptly stopped paying independent producers and some service providers.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago in a statement on Wednesday revealed that the new SABC interim board is trying "to deal with the urgent matter of the SABC fulfilling all its financial obligations, including payment of service providers", calling it an "immediate challenge".

"Independent producers woke up to news that they would not be paid and that the SABC has less than R100 million left in its coffers," says the SOS Coalition, saying it is "dismayed by the unabated financial mismanagement at the SABC".

"The SABC's dire financial situation has sparked legitimate fears across the television industry of a repeat of the SABC's 2009 financial meltdown which saw many companies close and numerous jobs lost".

The SOS Coalition says that the controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng as former chief financial officer (COO) and his "now infamous 90% local content decree has seemingly contributed to the financial crisis at the SABC in a way that extends far beyond the problems now confronting independent producers".

"The SABC's failure to meet its contractual obligations not only places the industry in crisis but also puts thousands of livelihoods at risk in a time of high unemployment".

"The SOS Coalition has campaigned for the SABC to increase local content quotas in past years to support the growth of our local creative industries, but this must be done in a reasonable and strategic fashion so as not to threaten the market share and financial viability of the SABC."

"The irresponsible and attention-seeking manner in which these programming changes have been implemented have contributed to the ongoing crisis at the SABC," says the SOS Coalition.

"Today the SABC sits at R150 million in debt to advertisers following the unplanned programming changes which resulted in unflighted advertisements. Hlaudi Motsoeneng's promises to increase rolayty payments to local musicians have also not been implemented".

"The irresponsible and self-aggrandising manner in which the 90% local content quota was driven contributed to the ongoing crisis at the SABC."

"The worst part of the 90%-model is that the very people who were meant to benefit from increasing local content - the creatives, artists and local producers - are now sitting with less than what they started with," says the SOS Coalition.

The SOS Coalition says its wants the new minister of communications, Ayanda Dlodlo and the new SABC interim board to prioritise the "SABC's immediate financial crisis to ensure the payment of SABC staff salaries and the payment of independent producers".

"Meet with independent producers as soon as possible to work out a joint way forward to ensure payments are made".