SABC faces col­lapse

CityPress - - Front Page - CHARL BLIGNAUT charl.blignaut@city­press.co.za

The SABC is in chaos, with the fi­nances of the state broad­caster in such dis­ar­ray that a halt has been called to pro­duc­ing new TV shows and staff mem­bers fear they won’t be paid.

SABC spokesper­son Kaizer Kganyago said this week that the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s fi­nances were “un­der pres­sure, with the SABC now fund­ing its ac­tiv­i­ties from its re­serves”, and put the blame on the global econ­omy, the me­dia, the par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the fit­ness of the SABC board to hold of­fice and a lack of gov­ern­ment sup­port.

How­ever, nu­mer­ous se­nior in­sid­ers say the sit­u­a­tion is far worse.

“We’re not even sure [if] we can pay salar­ies at month’s end,” said an in­sider close to the trea­sury divi­sion.

“Hlaudi’s [Mot­soe­neng] chick­ens have come home to roost ... It’s worse than [the SABC’s fi­nan­cial col­lapse in] 2008 – but this time it’s not likely that any­one will bail us out,” said an­other.

How­ever, Kganyago in­sisted salar­ies would be paid and de­nied the cri­sis was worse than in 2008.

“We col­lect rev­enue every day. Yes, our re­serves are down, but we are able to meet all our com­mit­ments,” he said.

None of the highly placed in­sid­ers City Press spoke to wished to be named for fear of los­ing their jobs. They all said that posts were now frozen.

“The prob­lem is that Hlaudi went on a drive to make free­lancers per­ma­nent and now we are stuck with an in­flated hu­man re­sources (HR) bill in fi­nance, risk, HR, the ex­ec­u­tive, news, sport and mar­ket­ing. They don’t know what to do with the peo­ple be­cause they can’t be moved to crit­i­cal op­er­a­tional ar­eas such as TV and sales be­cause they lack the nec­es­sary skills,” said one.

Many of those promised per­ma­nent jobs re­ceived only fixed-term con­tracts, and now, says Hannes du Buis­son, pres­i­dent of the Broad­cast­ing, Electronic, Me­dia and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union, those con­tracts are not be­ing re­newed and, in­creas­ingly, for­mer staffers are head­ing to the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion (CCMA) be­cause they had rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions of their con­tracts be­ing re­newed.

We have re­peat­edly warned the SABC that it is fac­ing a hu­man cap­i­tal man­age­ment cri­sis. Peo­ple are now be­ing re­duced in tranches

“We have so far filed three dis­putes for free­lancers who were given fixed-term con­tracts by Mot­soe­neng,” said Du Buis­son.

“Our mem­bers had been work­ing to­wards pro­mo­tions, but the posts they sought are no longer open.”

Tuwani Gu­mani, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Me­dia Work­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of SA, said the SABC had cut back hard on se­cu­rity staff.

“We have re­peat­edly warned the SABC that it is fac­ing a hu­man cap­i­tal man­age­ment cri­sis. Peo­ple are now be­ing re­duced in tranches,” he said.

Re­gard­ing for­mer free­lancers, Gu­mani said: “We pre­dict there will be a sub­stan­tial num­ber of CCMA cases com­ing.”

About the frozen posts, Kganyago said yes­ter­day: “There are a lot of peo­ple in the build­ing, some are not utilised fully ... And they are ask­ing where can they con­vert peo­ple’s skills to fit the needs of the po­si­tions, be­cause the wage bill is al­ready more than it should be. So, un­til they utilise these peo­ple prop­erly, these va­can­cies will re­main frozen.”

He said the SABC would be hir­ing only where scarce skills were re­quired.

Re­gard­ing a surge in CCMA cases, he said: “We do not have con­trol over peo­ple go­ing to the CCMA.”

Mean­while, there is grow­ing dis­con­tent over act­ing group chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) James Aguma, whose term Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi ex­tended for three months in Jan­uary. Ac­cord­ing to the SABC’s most re­cent an­nual re­port, Aguma re­ceived a 67.25% in­crease in salary last year, which pushed his pack­age from R1.3 mil­lion to nearly R2.2 mil­lion per year. Aguma also col­lected a 13th cheque of R181 000 last De­cem­ber.

Kganyago said Aguma’s was not an “un­rea­son­ably high in­crease”.

“He was a man­ager, then he be­came chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and then act­ing CEO. Of course he had to get in­creases. Over a long pe­riod, we did not pay 13th cheques. But then we re­alised that this was go­ing against our con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment. And the board ap­proved this,” he said.

TV con­tent pro­duc­ers are jumpy. Three in­sid­ers said no new TV shows were be­ing com­mis­sioned and “all the SABC will be do­ing is re­new­ing ex­ist­ing con­tracts”.

Said one in­sider: “A memo was cir­cu­lated re­cently to say that the SABC couldn’t meet its com­mit­ments, so pro­duc­ers would not re­ceive mid-month pay­ments, which is stan­dard when they first sign con­tracts.” This may have an ad­verse im­pact on SABC3’s re­launch in April.

An­other in­sider said: “SABC1 and SABC2 will be okay, but there is talk that SABC3 won’t make it. They are mak­ing no money and no one knows how long they can stay on air.”

One TV con­tent pro­ducer said: “I was in ... a meet­ing with se­nior TV peo­ple be­cause they had stopped pay­ing on a project I am at­tached to. They say it is just a de­lay. They as­sured me all con­tracts would be paid out, but there would be no new com­mis­sions. SABC3 is flat broke.”

Kganyago re­sponded: “I don’t know what they mean. Yes, SABC3 is not reach­ing its tar­gets – that is why it is re­launch­ing. Next week, we will be show­cas­ing the new pro­grammes, in­clud­ing lo­cal con­tent.”

Re­gard­ing a freeze on new shows, Kganyago said: “That is not true. In Jan­uary, we put out new con­tent on SABC2. In Fe­bru­ary, we did the same for SABC1. In March, it is SABC3.”

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