HOW THE REPORTED PLANS ARE IN VIOLATION OF SABC’S PUBLIC MANDATE
The SABC’s mandate is to promote and develop local skills, a solid job base, and the voice of the nation, as their Vuka Sizwe policy states. They are officially required to provide quality content across the full spectrum of South African official languages, and build bridges among cultures.
The creative industries have been built up with a great deal of passion and sweat over the past decade, by a collaboration of creatives, government and broadcasters – including the SABC. This has led to a sharp rise in the quality of South African film and television, more input from the interested public, and strong benefits to the economy. Creative talent to express authentic local stories has never been stronger and the future of the South African voice in the world looks bright.
According to the TVIEC, who are in regular communication with the interim SABC board, slashing local content by R500 million is at the heart of the SABC’s turnaround plans – plans the public is not informed about or involved with, and that have already begun being implemented.
– Repeats increasing steadily into next year and beyond.
– A similarly radical decline in original new programming.
– A crash in the local production industry.
This process will be at its peak during the soccer World Cup, when people from all over the world, including tens of thousands of members of the media, will be coming to South Africa – a critical opportunity for the new South African voice to be exported and enlivened.
The starving of our stories, our culture, and our society through the visual medium has already begun. Company closures are already rife, and the real cuts haven’t even started. Yes, it’s a financial crisis. And as the SABC ran up an unpaid debt of well over ZAR 100 million to the local industry IT CONCEALED THE REALITY.
In other words, while knowing what was going on could have helped producers prepare to weather the crisis, SABC management carried on pretending nothing was wrong. They justified late payments and shuffled contracts for months and months, seemingly disinterested in what happened to these companies. The pressure has especially been felt by small upcoming companies – the type with the highest percentage of black ownership.
And yes, some of these companies are “unfortunately dependent” on the SABC as the SABC spokesperson has recently stated. Here’s why:
1 – The SABC continues using apartheid-era copyright legislation to hold onto all intellectual property rights for programs they commission, although they hardly ever use these rights, and although they regularly pay far more to buy local rights to foreign products. Mandated to grow the industry, they are instead using the withholding of intellectual property rights to clamp a tight lid on top of it.
2 – When small companies win an SABC commission, they get excited, they’re on the national stage. They quickly learn it’s a bit more complicated. Soon they’re lost in an endless maze of contract delays, byzantine bureaucratic processes, repeated revisions at the last moment. When such small companies do not get paid, or get paid months late, by the SABC – who they are in contract with, have delivered to, and who own all the intellectual property of what’s being delivered – they have every expectation they should be paid on time. Instead, they have been forced to scramble to solve cash flow crises that are quickly fatal to such companies.
The further slashing of local content spend will lead to the collapse of the creative industries as a whole. Still the public knows nothing of the plans.
In fact, this starvation of local content may have already been going on for longer than we thought. Regulation 6.1 of the South African Television Content Regulations of 2002, Independent Broadcasting Authority of South Africa (ICASA), specifies that at least 40% of South African Content must be commissioned from Independent Production companies, spread evenly across South Africa. According to SASFED’s research, although SABC has claimed it is meeting its quotas, the Independent Broadcasting Authority of South Africa has, for the last 8 years, not submitted a single annual report on our national broadcaster.
Of course it would be hard with the information provided. During that period, the SABC has only submitted three years of quarterly reports to ICASA, and even those are incomplete and unsubstantiated. Not all the regulations are even mentioned and most importantly repeats, which count only partly or not at all toward the quota, are not identified as such.
Again it is an issue of TRANSPARENCY.
The question we are asking the SABC is why such a big hit on local content? Local content forms a relatively small portion of the corporation’s annual spend – less than 12% of total budget INCLUDING their own internal productions. Why don’t they cut local content by the same portion? Where is the SABC taking cuts that are proportionately smaller? In staff? In executive salaries?
Most of all why is the whole situation so untransparent? Why are they not communicating with the country? Why do they have the right to operate clandestinely and expect us to just swallow it? We – the public of this country – have a right to know.