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Producers want fat cut off SABC

Television production houses forced to the brink of closure by the SABC’s serial non-payments have presented a scathing memorandum to the Department of Communications listing ways of cutting the fat from the debt-ridden broadcaster.

The SABC reportedly owes R58-million to independent producers, who have formed the Television Industry Emergency Coalition to take on the corporation.

”We are hoping that the SABC is willing to be accountable and transparent,” said South African Screen Federation spokesman Rehad Desai, whose organisation forms part of the coalition with the Independent Producers’ Organisation, the Black Filmmakers’ Network and the Producers’ Alliance.

Measures the coalition recommends include halting:

  • Parties sponsored by the broadcaster;
  • Trips during which SABC employees stay in five-star hotels (four stars are recommended); and
  • Renovations to offices and studios.

The memorandum also suggests freezing bonuses and perks, halting non-essential international programming, reviewing managerial infrastructure and the content hub and closing down all international bureaux and the SABC International channel.

Consultancies should also be terminated, the coalition says. The SABC’s annual report last year said these cost the broadcaster R200-million.

”We still need to know how much they’ve got so that we can come to some sort of agreement about who is going to get paid and who isn’t,” Desai said. We know they’re in a crisis and we know they’ve got limited money — we want [payments] done in a way that does the least possible damage to the industry — which is teetering.”

Productions affected by the SABC’s non-payment of its content providers include the country’s most popular soapies — Isidingo, Generations and 7de Laan. Production houses that have had to lay off staff as a result include Penguin Films, Curious and Tom Pictures.

The crisis came to a head earlier this month when it became clear that the SABC would not be honouring a promise to pay independent producers who had formed the emergency coalition to engage with the cash-strapped broadcaster.

The memorandum presented to the communications department outlines the history of events probably to fill in newcomers at the department who have taken up office since the elections.

”We can no longer place any trust in the current administration,” the memorandum says, ”nor can we accept that the current crisis is as a result of the global economic crisis.”

Desai said that by midday yesterday his organisation was still awaiting feedback from the department. He was frustrated by its lack of response and feared that the matter was not being given priority.

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Matthew Krouse
Guest Author

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