SABC’s ‘turnaround strategy’ sees consumers footing the bill

2009-06-23 00:00

THE “arrogant” SABC has desperate plans for a “turnaround strategy” to try to get itself out of its critical financial situation of being R839 million in the red.

It is planning a R100 levy on the sale of every new TV set, DVD player and hi-fi system, which retailers will have to collect on behalf of the SABC.

It also intends to increase licence fees significantly because they have been increased only once in the past nine years.

The SABC is also planning the introduction of permanent “licensing costs” that MultiChoice and DStv, M-Net and future new pay-TV operators will have to pay to it, as well as the waiving of VAT on licence fee income, which will net it another R132 million.

These urgent money-making plans are part of a turnaround strategy submission by the SABC’s chief financial officer, Robin Nicholson, to the government to try and extricate the public broadcaster from its desperate debt burden.

The remaining and former members of the SABC board and management will appear before Parliament’s Communication portfolio committee to give account of the broadcaster’s management and financial crisis.

Only two of the remaining board members showed up at last Thursday’s meeting.

There is widespread speculation that the SABC board will be disbanded at tomorrow’s meeting so that the government can appoint a new five-member interim “SABC management committee”. This committee will be able to act for six months until parliament can appoint a new SABC board.

Nine of the original 12 SABC board members have resigned since March. Nadia Bulbulia handed in her letter of resignation to the minister of Communication on Friday afternoon.

According to the submission by the national broadcaster, it will need about R54 million in 2010 for the switch to digital terrestrial television, which has already started.

Operating expenses in the SABC budget will increase to R661 million in 2011, while R746 million will be needed in 2012.

The TV Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC) has said in a media statement that the SABC is arrogant and still does not realise that some active steps are urgently needed to resolve a crisis in the local television industry.

The TVIEC, which represents TV manufacturers in the country, maintains that “the SABC management still fails to appreciate the depth of the crisis they have caused in the industry” and have demonstrated “an unwillingness to take active steps to remedy this situation” for the industry and for viewers.

“They continue to act with arrogance,” it said.

The Save our SABC Coalition has said the government needs to act very swiftly.

“Parliament must appoint an interim SABC board as a matter of urgency. It must then conduct a separate technical hearing about what is happening inside the SABC.”

It said that during the hearing parliament should call in existing and former senior executives, among others, to give account of their management term at the SABC.

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