TAKE2: SABC sucking us dry

The brilliance of a politician can often be measured by timing. In Trevor Manuel’s case he has passed the ball to Pravin Gordhan at exactly the best time for him (and the worst for Gordhan).

Now the new finance minister is warning of budget cuts, while the new government sends him an additional tab for the new ministries and a host of problem children (think Eskom, etal) are crying for more. Much more. Gordhan says revenues are already running R10-billion below budget. He has his work cut out for him.

Now throw the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) into the equation. Until not too long ago it was happily self-funding, which indeed it should be because it has several monopolies in the entertainment and information arenas that it has used to print money.

You can only wonder at the self-imploding policies it has implemented that now mean it wants R2-billion from the public purse. In the worst-case scenario we read R4,2-billion is needed.

If you were Gordhan you should probably do your calculations on the latter number as the place is such a mess at present that the worst-case scenario is also the most likely scenario.

We are a nation of about 42-million people. This means that every one of us is in for R100 to help the SABC pay its bills.

The SABC has its own quasi police force which goes around checking TV licences. I have this image of this force with new powers allowing them to shake down street kids, pensioners leaving the monthly payment queue, street vendors and children on their way to school. All will be made to pay their R100 irrespective of whether they watch or listen to the SABC. That’s the way the licence system works.

The idea of the SABC using its police force to shake down the young, the old and the poor for R100 each is, of course, bizarre. But if it gets its R2-billion, that is R2-billion less to be spent on the young, the old and the poor.

If it gets R4-billion, that’s twice the amount that will not be put in the pockets of the young, the old and the poor.

It is hard as an outsider to get a grip on how an institution that has paid its own way for as long as we can remember would now have to resort to taking food out of the mouths of the young, the old and the poor.

In the absence of a better explanation for this I will go with former SABC chairperson Kanyisiwe Mkonza, who told parliamentarians this week that she “sucks as a leader”.

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Kevin Davie

Kevin Davie is M&G's business editor. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked in senior positions at most major titles in the country. Davie is a Nieman Fellow (1995-1996) and cyberspace innovator, having co-founded SA's first online-only news portal, Woza, and the first online stockbroking operation. He is a lecturer at Wits Journalism. In his spare time he can be found riding a bicycle, usually somewhere remote.

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