Ra­dio hams

Tax­pay­ers will have to bail out prof­li­gate SABC

Finweek English Edition - - Nothing Sacred - STEPHEN MUL­HOL­LAND stephenm@fin­week.co.za

IT’S A FAIR AS­SUMP­TION that had the South African Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion been a pri­vate com­pany it would now be in bank­ruptcy. It’s a fi­nan­cial, ad­min­is­tra­tive and op­er­a­tional night­mare and only bil­lions more of tax­pay­ers’ money can keep it go­ing. Thus tax­pay­ers should rec­on­cile them­selves to the re­al­ity that, in ad­di­tion to pay­ing a li­cence to the SABC in or­der to op­er­ate a TV set, we’re also go­ing to have to fund it out of gen­eral tax rev­enues.

This is yet an­other form of stealth tax im­posed upon us by our prof­li­gate rul­ing elite. No­body can ac­cuse the SABC of hav­ing been out of step with its ul­ti­mate gov­er­nor, the ANC. Jobs for pals, over­staffing, fruit­less ex­pen­di­ture, ex­trav­a­gant offices – not only here but also in world cap­i­tals, where ex­pen­sive bu­reaus are main­tained for no sound jour­nal­is­tic pur­pose. All that, com­bined with sus­pi­cious con­trac­tual prac­tices and bur­geon­ing em­ployee costs as new peo­ple are re­cruited in the face of mount­ing losses.

In 2005 the SABC had 3 500 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing per­ma­nent, con­trac­tual and free­lance cat­e­gories. That rose to 4 100 two years later and since then, and in the face of mount­ing losses, it has con­tin­ued to rise pre­cisely when it should have been fall­ing. Es­ti­mates now put the num­ber at around 4 500 and what the SABC, as is the case with other ANC struc­tures, is learn­ing is that those in­flex­i­ble labour laws so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally greeted by the com­rades years ago are a mas­sive bar­rier against the sort of re­or­gan­i­sa­tion the SABC des­per­ately needs.

Again, there’s no pos­si­ble way the SABC will be able to trade its way out of its cur­rent morass. It must be sub­jected to cor­po­rate surgery. The head count has to come down by at least a third, if not more.

It’s peo­ple who cost more than any­thing else and if they aren’t con­tribut­ing to prof­its, then they’re pas­sen­gers who must leave the ship. There will be amaze­ment at what emerges from that sort of purge.

As your age­ing cor­re­spon­dent dis­cov­ered at the Fair­fax group in Aus­tralia – where we re­duced the head count from 5 200 to 2 000 – there were large num­bers of peo­ple who had re­tired but ne­glected to let us know. There were oth­ers who, while never deny­ing them­selves their an­nual hol­i­days, didn’t feel it nec­es­sary that be recorded any­where – thus the com­pany ended up ow­ing them months and months of leave, a li­a­bil­ity that grew each year as wages and salaries went up. And, of course, there were those who de­nied them­selves hol­i­days be­cause they feared they might be caught out in some sort of fraud.

And there was the usual abuse of com­pany fleet cars be­ing used for pri­vate pur­poses, com­pany phones em­ployed for long dis­cus­sions with friends and fam­ily all over the world, ex­pense ac­counts in­clud­ing gro­ceries from su­per­mar­kets.

Here’s a tip for the poor sod who ends up run­ning the SABC: chart your sta­tionery con­sump­tion. You’ll find that as the school hol­i­days end your con­sump­tion of sta­tionery rises dra­mat­i­cally. The staff mem­bers are steal­ing it for their kids.

And on day one of your man­age­ment rule is­sue an or­der that 20% of all tele­phones must be dis­con­nected and re­moved from the build­ing. And flog the build­ing. There’s plenty of ware­house space avail­able in which to erect stu­dios, offices and so on. And it will be found that the mere act of mov­ing ex­poses all sorts of money-de­stroy­ing prac­tices, in­clud­ing cor­rup­tion.

Some folk ac­tu­ally run their own busi­nesses from within the cor­po­rate struc­ture us­ing cor­po­rate re­sources. A move flushes that sort of thing out.

And let your board know from the out­set you’re run­ning the show. They are there, like the US Se­nate, to ad­vise and con­sent but not to do. Don’t pro­vide any of­fice ac­com­mo­da­tion for the board – in par­tic­u­lar the chair­man.

Who­ever in­her­its this fright­ful task must make it a non-ne­go­tiable con­di­tion that there will be suf­fi­cient funds pro­vided in terms of SA’s pie-in-the-sky labour laws to get rid of a cou­ple of thou­sand peo­ple.

And avoid con­sul­tants like the plague. If you want ad­vice you can get it for noth­ing from an­tiques like me, who have been there and done it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.