NO PAY FOR SABC PRODUCERS WHILE EXECS
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
FIRST CLASS FLYER Nomsa Philiso