Producers and service providers working for SABC Television have been told they won’t be paid due to the fact that the public broadcaster is “under pressure in the short- and medium-term in respect of cash flow due to the current liquidity challenge experienced”.
A letter from the office of Nomsa Philiso, group executive of SABC Television, says the SABC would communicate with those affected by 15 August 2018 to “forge a way forward on all the deferred commitments”. Philiso thanked those affected for their “continued support in ensuring a seamless broadcast is achieved, without which it would be impossible to continue generating funds”.
How many producers and service providers have been affected by this is unclear. In response to a series of questions sent to the SABC by The Media Online, spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said, “Please note that we are engaging directly with the Independent Producers and we are unable to comment on this matter through the media”.
In the meantime, the DA has lambasted the broadcaster. “It is disappointing that the public once again has to be informed about the SABC’s financial challenges through media reports,” said the party’s shadow minister of communications, Phumzile van Damme. “Furthermore, in the interest of transparency and openness, the SABC ought to have informed Parliament’s communications committee of its financial distress.”
The Independent Producers’ Association responded immediately, calling on government to “urgently help the SABC financially”. It said the implications of non-payment was “extremely serious”. “Most producers cannot afford to continue work without contracted scheduled payments and will not be able to pay the people working on productions,” it said. “Not paying producers for work they have done means that literally thousands of actors, technical crew, caterers and support staff will not be paid. In addition it harms the sustainability of the local production industry and therefore the transformation agenda of the government.”
Van Damme pointed out that the financial crisis at the SABC has a direct impact on job security for many. “If the SABC is to support the development of local television and music, it must make sure that they are paid, and on time. These are often struggling artists with families to feed, bills and employees to pay,” she said.
This week, many production companies providing programmes to @SABCPortal received a letter saying that they would not be paid this month. There was no indication of when they would be able to pay them. #SABC
— The Callsheet (@TheCallsheetSA) August 2, 2018
Broke SABC can't pay its service providers. All the freebies given to ANC events are killing SABC.
— Justice4All (@Unathi_Kwaza) August 2, 2018
Van Damme said it was a matter of public record that the SABC’s financial challenges stem from years of mismanagement, corruption and a culture of secrecy. “However, it is incumbent on the public broadcaster’s new board to play open cards with the public and Parliament on the full status of its financial distress,” she added.
The Independent Producers said it recognised the progress of the new board in attempting to stabilise the situation. But it emphasised how the years of “erratic and irrational” management by Hlaudi Motsoeneng had left the broadcaster in an “appalling situation”.