CityPress - - Front Page - CHARL BLIGNAUT charl.blignaut@city­

While SABC TV boss Nomsa Philiso was en­joy­ing a glam­orous trip to Los An­ge­les in the US to cel­e­brate the 30th birth­day of soapie The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful, her di­vi­sion back home was in melt­down. Philiso, group ex­ec­u­tive in charge of TV at the SABC, flew first class on Emi­rates for the eight­day trip, spon­sored by the soapie, which be­gan last week, a source on the trip told City Press.

And while it ap­pears that the SABC man­aged to pay its jit­tery per­ma­nent staff their April salaries, once again, it was this month un­able to pay pro­duc­ers what it owes them.

Three in­de­pen­dent sources who deal with fi­nances at the SABC have con­firmed that the broad­caster owes pro­duc­ers R100 mil­lion for April. It only had R70 mil­lion avail­able to pay a pro­duc­tion bill be­lieved to be about R170 mil­lion.

At the end of March, SABC was only able to pay R32 mil­lion of the R150 mil­lion owed to pro­duc­ers, who cre­ate the con­tent that at­tracts the ad­ver­tis­ing that is the sole source of its rev­enue. The broad­caster even­tu­ally man­aged, say in­dus­try play­ers, to pay about R90 mil­lion for March. But about R60 mil­lion re­mained un­paid, and there were fur­ther amounts un­paid from Fe­bru­ary. With this lat­est blow, the pro­duc­tion sec­tor says it is reeling, with sev­eral com­pa­nies on the verge of col­lapse. Across the in­dus­try, com­pa­nies are say­ing they will down tools if they are not paid by to­mor­row. “Peo­ple can­not pay school fees. There are crew mem­bers sud­denly with­out work who lit­er­ally don’t have food on the ta­ble,” said a pro­ducer of SABC shows. They were one of six pro­duc­tion houses City Press spoke to on Fri­day. They do not wish to be named for fear of jeop­ar­dis­ing their re­la­tion­ship with the SABC, a pri­mary em­ployer in the sec­tor. “Last month, we didn’t get paid and our crew threat­ened to strike. We took a bank loan. We gen­uinely don’t know how we will sur­vive if we aren’t paid again. As it is, we won’t be able to pay ev­ery­body,” said another. “We have had a lot of res­ig­na­tions. Peo­ple have gone to com­pa­nies that don’t rely on the SABC,” said one pro­ducer of va­ri­ety pro­gram­ming. “The stress we are liv­ing with is un­be­liev­able.” Sources said the SABC would not be able to pay all of its soapie pro­duc­ers this month. Bongiwe Se­lane of the In­de­pen­dent Pro­duc­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion, which rep­re­sents more than 100 pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, told City Press on Fri­day: “We have been asked to keep de­liv­er­ing pro­grammes with­out be­ing paid for the work done, but this sit­u­a­tion is un­sus­tain­able. “We must ask if the ex­ec­u­tives who have placed us in this po­si­tion have re­ceived their own salaries this month.”

The In­de­pen­dent Pro­duc­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion has had meet­ings with the SABC’s in­terim board and se­nior man­age­ment, “but we have no clear an­swers as to when com­plete pay­ments will be re­sumed”. It is meet­ing with them again next week to try to chart a way for­ward.

“This sit­u­a­tion throws thou­sands of peo­ple work­ing in the TV in­dus­try into fi­nan­cial jeop­ardy and can­not be tol­er­ated. In­de­pen­dent pro­duc­ers are car­ry­ing the bur­den of this cri­sis,” said Se­lane.

Bizarrely, City press learnt this week of sev­eral pro­duc­ers who had re­ceived con­tracts for new shows, or new sea­sons of shows. “Is this even le­gal?” asked one. “It is trad­ing in bad faith,” said another. Most are re­fus­ing to sign new con­tracts un­til they have been paid for old ones.

“We are on our own,” said a rel­a­tively ju­nior source in the SABC’s TV di­vi­sion.

“The ex­ec­u­tives are not telling us what to do. They are ei­ther away or they are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing.”

Philiso was ap­par­ently joined in Los An­ge­les by SABC1 gen­eral man­ager Mai­jang Mpher­wane. Iron­i­cally, The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful was canned when for­mer SABC boss Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng in­tro­duced his 80% lo­cal con­tent quota for TV, an­ger­ing view­ers. It’s back, but in a later time slot.

SABC spokesper­son Kaizer Kganyago said the SABC was in­vited by The Bold and Beau­ti­ful to Los An­ge­les as part of a con­trac­tual agree­ment. Kganyago con­firmed that some pro­duc­ers had not been paid, and said the SABC was pay­ing them as and when money came in.

“It is not just pro­duc­ers, it is sup­pli­ers in gen­eral. We are in talks with the depart­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Trea­sury to re­solve the mat­ter,” he said.


THE WAY THEY WERE The cast of US soapie The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful



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