Monday, June 8, 2009

We'll pay, says SABC

The SABC was committed to paying R60m in unpaid production fees which sparked a protest outside its headquarters in Johannesburg on Thursday.
"We have R60 million outstanding and we accept that," said acting chief executive officer Gab Mampone, after accepting a memorandum that called for the SABC board to step down.

He said a payment plan was "on the table" following a meeting with industry representatives on Tuesday.

They now had to decide how to apportion payment from the pool of cash available, he said.

Mampone recently said the broadcaster would need at least R2bn to solve its financial problem.

Right to be angry

"You are allowed to get angry, you have the right to be angry with the public broadcaster," said Mampone, separated from protesters by a human chain formed by the police.

"We will settle those outstanding debts," he said as protesters shouted "when".

He said a contributing factor to their predicament was a fall in advertising revenue. He also called on those present to work with the SABC to solve the problem it faces.

Mampone was booed as he arrived to receive the memorandum which also called for the Independent Communications Authority of SA to hold public hearings on whether the SABC was complying with broadcasting regulations and its fiduciary duties.

However, the Young Communist League said the R2bn should be withheld until the board steps down, accusing it of siding with opposition party, the Congress of the People.

"The board must go, then they can get their money," YCL spokesperson Castro Ngobese said.

The board has come in for sustained criticism from some political quarters for its perceived allegiance to former president Thabo Mbeki, who appointed the board, and whose forced resignation in 2008 was seen as the trigger for the formation of ANC breakaway group Cope.

Improperly constituted

Unions and the Freedom of Expression Institute have also asked why the board does not have a labour and a media industry representative, arguing that this makes it improperly constituted.

Meanwhile, babies in prams, bare-breasted women and a dog were among the star-studded crowd of protesters.

Reworking a song popularised by President Jacob Zuma, they sang Awulethu imali yami (bring my money) as they stopped traffic and drew crowds of onlookers.

Marching under the umbrella of the TV Industry Emergency Coalition and the SABC Crisis Coalition, around 1 000 actors, producers, writers and technical people danced and laughed saying they were pleased they had finally come together as one group to highlight a growing list of concerns.

These include worries that the SABC is not paying for work on time, causing a knock-on effect in the industry; that it is cutting back on local content; and that it was not paying for repeat programmes.

"We don't want to bring the SABC down, we just want it to meet its obligations to all South Africans and the industry," said Peter Goldsmid, who is on the committee which organised the march.

Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesperson Lucky Lukhele called on the SABC to stop its coverage of King Mswati. Lukhele also used the platform to draw attention to the detention of People's United Democratic Movement leader Mario Masuku.


Artists' manager Gaenor Becker said actors do not get fees for programme repeats, even though it is in their contracts, and 7de Laan actor Vinette "Charmaine" Ebrahim said she was "disgusted" that production houses risked closure because they were not being paid.

The Imbabazane Cultural Organisation felt that African tradition was being sidelined and their female dancers expressed this view by joining the march wearing only traditional Zulu beaded skirts and necklaces.

"We want the SABC to broadcast shows we can be involved in - shows with African culture - because they are leaving us out," said Manto Makama.

Meanwhile, Archie the bulldog, wearing a Zulu beaded collar watched proceedings with canine reserve as he strutted alongside his master, post-production worker Guy Steer.

"They said it is the downslide in the economy, we say it is the mismanagement of funds," said Steer.

A similar protest was held at noon outside the SABC's offices in Sea-Point, Cape Town.

The protesters handed over a copy of the same memorandum to an SABC representative.

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