Sunday, July 7, 2024

FIRED. SABC axes COO Ian Plaatjes and head of video entertainment Merlin Naicker over secret SABC+ ad revenue kickbacks.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster has fired both its suspended chief operating officer (COO) Ian Plaatjes and suspended head of video entertainment Merlin Naicker who were both found guilty following disciplinary hearings, of failing to disclose that the external company running its SABC+ streaming service would get an advertising revenue kickback.

Ian Plaatjes and Merlin Naicker were both suspended in February after shocking revelations that Discovery Digital - the company running its SABC+ video streaming platform for the public broadcaster - is profiting from and getting an additional 7.5% of the advertising revenue made through SABC+.

Ian Plaatjes and Merlin Naicker originally told SABC executive committee members in November 2022 in their business plan that the SABC would get 100% of the advertising revenue generated by SABC+.

An investigation found that Ian Plaatjes and Merlin Naicker deliberately failed to disclose that Discover Digital would get 7.5% advertising revenue from SABC+ and hid the secret profit-sharing agreement that they had signed without the knowledge of the then-SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe.

The 7.5% payment to Discover Digital is on top of the R35 million the SABC had to pay to Discover Digital to manage SABC+.

The SABC projected that SABC+ would make between R150 million and R200 million a year in advertising revenue - of which 7.5% goes to Discovery Digital.

SABC+ as a streamer is the platform that the public broadcaster bought and took over from Telkom that got rid of its Telkom ONE streamer, and which was rebranded as SABC+.

In response to a media query, Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson, confirmed to TVwithThinus that both the COO and head of video entertainment have both been fired "with immediate effect" after disciplinary hearings.

"The SABC board of directors have resolved to terminate the employment contract of Ian Plaatjes, following a disciplinary process. The board has duly considered the findings and recommendations of the report by an independent chairperson and decided to release Ian Plaatjies from his duties as the SABC's chief operating officer (COO) with immediate effect."

"The SABC can also confirm that Merlin Naicker, the group executive for video entertainment, is also released from his duties with immediate effect following a disciplinary hearing."