/ 26 November 2010

SABC set to axe 13 senior managers

Thirteen senior managers at the SABC have already been targeted for retrenchment as the public broadcaster sets about pruning its R78-million annual salary bill, the Mail & Guardian has learned.

And the number of proposed retrenchments, which will mainly affect senior and middle management, is expected to rise in the new year.

“Everybody is uneasy,” said a senior executive. “But on the other hand, we do know that it’s necessary to cut costs.”

Unveiling the broadcaster’s turnaround strategy to Parliament’s communications committee, the SABC board said there would be staff cuts at the Auckland Park head office and in regional offices.

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said it had not been consulted on the proposed retrenchments. “But it is actually part of our call that the ratio of managers is too high,” said Vulture Ntuluki, the CWU’s collective bargaining coordinator.

“There are more managers than people at ground level at the SABC.” Ntuluki said he had received complaints that some senior managers were not performing. “We were told they literally do nothing,” he said.

“Our information is that some have nobody to report to them and people have been appointing their friends to these posts.”

Presenting the turnaround plan to the communications committee, board members said that while downsizing was seen as a critical step, the corporation also needed to hire people to fill strategic vacancies and establish a performance-driven culture.

The board took a whipping from the committee when it tried to present the SABC’s turnaround plan in October without submitting the relevant documents. But this week none of the so-called “dysfunctionality” of the board, previously alleged by its chairperson, Ben Ngubane, was in evidence.

It presented a united front, raising hopes that it would not be destabilised by further resignations.

Communications Minister Roy Padayachie is understood to have been informed of the impending staff cuts at the SABC. In another development, ­Padayachie made the surprise announcement that he was withdrawing the controversial draft ­Public Service Broadcasting Bill.

“I am convinced that much more can yet be gained by engaging in further work before a Bill is presented to Cabinet,” he said.

The M&G earlier reported that broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA, had made an uncompromising submission to former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda, in which it said that it did not believe it was viable to abolish television licence fees and fund the debt-plagued SABC using personal income tax.

The Bill proposed a 1% levy on income tax, with the resulting funds to fall under the administrative aegis of the Media Diversity and Development Fund. Padayachie said that a process would now be instituted to review the research into funding options for the SABC and community media, among other matters.

An economic modelling exercise would be undertaken to look at the SABC and community media costs, and the projected costs of digital migration.