THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SABC: Only wants to pay TV producers 25% of what they're owed monthly; says it can't provide production companies 'any guarantees on a payment schedule'.


The broke South African public broadcaster is now only willing to pay the country's independent TV producers 25% of what they're owed monthly, while still expecting them to deliver 100% of the content that the cash-strapped SABC needs to keep its TV channels on the air - while unwilling to commit to and unable to give current and overdue payment guarantees.

Producers who in 2009 during the SABC's previous collapse lost production companies, livelihoods and were forced to sell homes and cars, are adamant that they won't be "subsidising" the crumbling broadcaster a second time.

They want their money and plans are forming to collectively withhold delivery of content to force the SABC to make payments.

The reeling SABC on the brink of financial collapse similar to the financial implosion it faced in 2009, owes the struggling South African TV production sector millions of rand in outstanding payments since February and has been unable to make full payment,with several production houses facing massive uncertainty and risking going under.

According to high-level TV production industry sources, the SABC isn't willing to give struggling production companies any industry guarantees on current scheduled payments or on when and how the millions of rand on outstanding and overdue payments will be made.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to a media enquiry made Monday afternoon seeking comment on the 25% the SABC said it wants to pay producers, as well as guarantees around the public broadcaster's basic payment schedule and terms of trade with TV producers.

Distraught and stressed South Africa's TV producers who are struggling to pay on-air talent and production crews and saying they're not willing to continue to produce episodes of the multitude of shows broadcast on the SABC's TV channels, have so far been unable to get any clear answers and commitments from the SABC as to how the broadcaster plans on resolving the issue of non-payment.

TV producers are also shocked at the SABC's offer of only being willing to pay a quarter of what producers are owed monthly.


25% is 'a trap'
According to high-level production sources, the SABC can't "give any guarantees as they themselves are working without any". Yet the broadcaster is telling TV producers that they are the "first priority" and is trying to ensure that they get payment or at least part-payment.

According to sources, "what was put on the table was a suggestion by the SABC of a 25% as a minimum guarantee payment", who are saying that only getting 25% payment is going to leave most, if not all producers, in a far worse-off and untenable position.

"The 25% feels like a trap and is in fact too little for us to work with," say producers. They say they need full payment for their work produced and delivered to the SABC and for the broadcaster to fulfill its contractual obligation to content suppliers.

"We cannot agree to subsidising the public broadcaster," notes a source.

The SABC told South Africa's producers that it has been meeting with producers who have been commissioned and who have existing production agreements with the SABC, about the broadcaster's precarious financial position.

The SABC that wants full content delivery to maintain its TV schedule stability, however told producers that it "can't provide any guarantees on a payment schedule" since the cash-strapped broadcaster "is making those decisions on a month to month basis".

The SABC through the new minister of communications, Ayanda Dlodlo, last week officially asked the national Treasury for another bailout that will again be in the form of a government-guaranteed bank loan, similar to the Nedbank loan of R1.47 billion in 2009.

Ayanda Dlodlo told parliament that she doesn't want to disclose the amount of the possible new SABC bailout yet.