SABC producers not paid while execs party

2017-04-30 06:33

Johannesburg - 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, the group executive in charge of TV at the SABC, flew first class on Emirates for the eight-day 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, the SABC 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 R100m for April. It only had R70m available to pay a production bill believed to be about R170m.

At the end of March, SABC was only able to pay R32m of the R150m 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 R90m for March. But about R60m remained unpaid, and there were further amounts unpaid from February.

The SABC did not respond to questions at the time of writing this report.

Several companies are on the verge of collapse

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.

“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 this week.

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 – the broadcaster’s biggest money spinners – 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.

“We are on our own”

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.

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