Saturday, June 22, 2019

Right2Know Campaign calls for urgent intervention to prevent an SABC blackout, says a black-on-air scenario will be a violation of South African citizens' rights.

The Right2Know Campaign is calling for urgent intervention to prevent a blackout at the beleaguered South African public broadcaster, saying that a possible impending black-on-air scenario when the SABC finally seizes up and is unable to broadcast any further will be a violation of South African citizens' rights.

On Sunday, Bongumusa Makhathini, SABC chairperson, warned that the SABC is finally on the verge of collapse with a blackout that could happen any moment.

"I’m not sure how we are going to pay for salaries come end of June," Bongumusa Makhathini said in a report in The Sunday Times.

The SABC that is perilously close to no longer broadcasting hasn't paid for municipal services like electricity at the end of May, choosing to rather pay SABC staff salaries. The SABC now owes the City of Johannesburg more than R13.5 million.

The SABC that is drowning in debt owes the parastatal signal distributor Sentech R317 million and MultiChoice's sports content division SuperSport over R208 million. Beyond that the SABC also owes millions to other content providers like independent South African production companies.

Nothing has so far come of the SABC's plea for a massive R6.8 billion in another government bailout.

On Monday, Yolande van Biljon, the SABC's CFO, warned in an interview with SABC News (DStv 404) that the beleaguered South African public broadcaster's "Day Zero can happen tomorrow" and refused to confirm that SABC staffers will be paid at the end of June.

Yolande van Biljon said that the SABC owes R1.8 billion to hundreds of companies.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has called the government's inaction to help the SABC "despicable" and said that it looks like "a direct attempt to crash the SABC".

R2K in a statement is calling for urgent intervention to prevent an SABC blackout, saying R2K is "deeply concerned by the imminent possibility of an SABC blackout as a result of low cash flow and indebtedness".

"This is especially so, given that the SABC finds itself in this unacceptable financial position after decades of underfunding and recent years of mismanagement and corruption as a result of maladministration and state capture under the combined leadership of dismissed SABC COO,  Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the former SABC board and Faith Muthambi, the former minister of communications".

"The current SABC is charged with a mandate to draw up and implement a sound turnaround strategy to resolve this long-standing problem. This cannot be done with a commitment from the Treasury to commit increased public funding."

"We call for a turnaround strategy that addresses the systemic and long-standing problems including bloated top management and duplication of roles."

"If the screens go dark at the SABC it will be a violation of the ordinary citizens' fundamental right to communicate since this will lead to the inevitable deprivation of the people's right to access information."

"R2K is encouraged by the commitment shown by Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications, to find an urgent solution to the immediate problem, including sourcing a bailout from Treasury."

"However, we urge all parties to find a lasting solution out of the financial quagmire that does not include yet another call by an state-owned enterprise for bailouts from an already depleted public fiscus."

"We call on the ministry, the current SABC board and the other roleplayers to take the public into their confidence in constructing a turn-around strategy and a rescue package that ensures that all interests are taken into account. Civil society too stands ready to assist our SABC," says R2K.