CityPress - - News - CHARL BLIGNAUT and LLOYD GEDYE news@city­press.co.za

The SABC’s Spe­cial Projects depart­ment is re­garded by many as a back door to push through com­mis­sions.

But SABC group ex­ec­u­tive of cor­po­rate af­fairs Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng de­nies this, say­ing there is a sin­gle con­tent team at work at the SABC.

In­sid­ers, how­ever, don’t agree, with one say­ing: “Those who have ac­cess to the 27th floor are mak­ing all the new con­tent.”

In May, soap stars So­phie Nd­aba and Win­nie Nt­shaba, and per­form­ers Somizi Mh­longo, Arthur Mafokate and Khanyi Mbau, were ear­marked for pro­duc­tion devel­op­ment as part of the SABC’s plan to em­power lo­cal pro­duc­tion houses and ta­lent.

Other pro­duc­ers an­nounced were DJ Finzo, Ntombi Mzolo, Thapelo Mo­raka and Pearl Mo­di­adie.

Mot­soe­neng dis­misses the idea that his or his close SABC as­so­ciate Sully Motsweni’s “friends” are ben­e­fit­ing from the new ar­range­ment. “I don’t have friends,” he told City Press. “When I check your ques­tions about cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als, we don’t do busi­ness be­cause peo­ple come and com­plain in my of­fice as you are putting it. It’s ‘Home Af­fairs’ here, peo­ple call this of­fice Home Af­fairs. Or ‘hos­pi­tal’.

“I have an open-door pol­icy. I talk to ev­ery­one and I lis­ten to ev­ery­one. We are mak­ing sure that we em­power emerg­ing pro­duc­tion houses and we are tar­get­ing all prov­inces and we want peo­ple to pro­duce pro­gram­ming in their own lan­guages.”

One ex­am­ple of pref­er­en­tial treat­ment cited by many sources is Nd­aba and Nt­shaba’s pro­posed new show, The Heal­ers, a myth­i­cal yet fu­tur­is­tic drama fea­tur­ing mer­maids.

One SABC in­sider said the Spe­cial Projects depart­ment’s Jac­qui Hlog­wane helped write the pro­posal for the show.

Asked about this, Mot­soe­neng replied: “That is a good ques­tion. The role of the SABC is to guide and also to em­power all th­ese emerg­ing me­dia houses.”

Nd­aba has also been linked to a new wed­ding show and a new soap opera pitched to Mot­soe­neng, ac­cord­ing to four cur­rent and for­mer SABC of­fi­cials.

The wed­ding show was ini­tially re­jected by SABC com­mis­sion­ing ed­i­tors be­cause Nd­aba owns a wed­ding plan­ning busi­ness and they felt the show pro­moted it. Mot­soe­neng said he en­cour­aged Nd­aba’s busi­ness suc­cess. One SABC in­sider said Mot­soe­neng had been heard stat­ing: “Somizi [Mh­longo] must come, Danie [Swart] and Jac­qui [Hlong­wane] will help him with his pro­posal.” Nd­aba and Nt­shaba did not re­spond to ques­tions. “We want for­mer ac­tors to be own­ers of their own pro­duc­tions ... Trans­for­ma­tion at the SABC is not ne­go­tiable,” Mot­soe­neng said.

In­de­pen­dent pro­duc­ers, how­ever, say Mot­soe­neng is do­ing un­told dam­age to the in­dus­try by throw­ing out the RFP sys­tem.

The In­de­pen­dent Pro­duc­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion (IPO), which rep­re­sents “the ma­jor­ity of the tele­vi­sion pro­duc­ers sup­ply­ing con­tent to broad­cast­ers in South Africa”, said in a state­ment: “The IPO is aware of Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng’s par­al­lel com­mis­sion­ing process for his cho­sen hand­ful of as­pi­rant pro­duc­ers.

“They are of­ten ac­tors or recog­nised in­dus­try per­sons, who are not ex­pe­ri­enced pro­duc­ers, and have them­selves reached out to nu­mer­ous of our mem­bers, re­quest­ing ‘as­sis­tance’ in their sig­nif­i­cant pre-al­lo­cated bud­gets, since they lack the nec­es­sary pro­duc­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.

“As a re­sult, the al­lo­cated funds would es­sen­tially be given to ‘mid­dle men and women’ who are given cred­its they are not qual­i­fied for.”

The state­ment says the in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­tion sec­tor fought hard for in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ing, and fair and trans­par­ent pro­ce­dures, and this has opened the door “to un­fair and cor­rupt com­mis­sion­ing prac­tices that were a hall­mark of a dated broad­caster in days long gone.”

Mot­soe­neng said in re­sponse: “It will be mis­lead­ing to say pro­duc­tion houses are un­happy. Maybe your sources are not pre­pared for trans­for­ma­tion.”

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