by Thinus Ferreira
As part of the South African public broadcaster's retrenchment process to do away with 400 staffers the bloated SABC plans to do away with the crucially important roles and positions of TV publicists for its various TV channels with SABC executives who think that these roles can be centralised under its corporate communications division sources have told TVwithThinus.
The overstaffed SABC has started what is known as a "section 189" process and plans to axe 400 staffers from its workforce with the wage bill that remains the biggest single expenditure as part of the financially struggling broadcaster's operating expenses.
While SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as TV channels have had separate publicity units and positions at the public broadcaster for decades, TVwithThinus has learnt that as part of the new structure the SABC management has decided to eliminate and get rid of these, centralising the various TV channel's individual programming publicity efforts under the corporate communications office, currently headed up by SABC corporate communications chief Gugu Ntuli.
Within the new downsized SABC structure - when it comes to maintaining and building media relations with the press and communicating information about content on the broadcaster's various TV channels - there is apparently only space for a single SABC marketing manager and at most probably 3 brand managers.
These few remaining positions will allegedly very likely end up being filled by staffers from the SABC's existing corporate communications division.
If executed this way, it spells danger and bodes badly not just for the existing SABC publicists who might possibly lose their jobs but also for the existing media relationship and future relationship between the SABC and the press - a relationship that is crucially important and mutually beneficial to the broadcaster as well as the media covering the SABC and its content for viewers.
On Monday TVwithThinus asked the SABC whether it's planning to do away with all of the publicity positions at the various SABC channels to replace it with a few overall "brand representatives", and if so, how the SABC plans to communicate information about its TV channels to stakeholders like the media in such a case.
The SABC didn't respond to the media enquiry.
With the explosive growth in pay-TV services like MultiChoice's DStv and China'sStarTimes and its StarSat; along with the expanding number of local and international pay-TV channels with a local PR presence in South Africa, in addition to the fast-growing video streamers like Netflix, Showmax and others also making use of in-house publicist or PR companies, it has become extremely important for broadcasters like the SABC and e.tv to communicate even better, more and in more ways - not less - about its content and programming.
Similar to the SABC that has scaled back on its original local content production - that is ironically crucial to retain existing audiences and to acquire more viewers - the broadcaster now also apparently plans to wholesale eliminate the important role of the publicists who are tasked to communicate about that content to the media.