Accused SABC staff take bribes for payola

Johannesburg - The SABC has taken disciplinary action against 13 music compilers implicated in a forensic report commissioned by the broadcaster’s former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago this week confirmed that 13 out of 19 SABC music compilers were facing disciplinary hearings for various charges, including “payola”.

Payola is the illegal practice of broadcasting recordings, particularly songs, on commercial radio and presenting the song as part of the scheduled broadcast in exchange for a bribe.

Music compilers play a huge role in the compilation of music lists for radio show hosts and participate in weekly playlist meetings scheduling music in the radio sector.

It is understood that more names of implicated companies and artists are contained in the payola report, which the SABC has not yet released to the public.

SABC insiders told City Press, however, that in the report, there were more than 15 confessions from artists claiming they paid music compilers money for their songs to be played on air.

Sources in the music industry told City Press it was not easy to trace payola cases and, as a result, the SABC was treading carefully.

“Metro FM music compiler Nathi ‘DJ Nutty’ Nthangeni is one of the 13 music compilers facing a disciplinary hearing,” an insider said.

Asked about his disciplinary hearing process, Nthangeni referred City Press to Kganyago.

“The hearing was not about payola in particular, but a workshop that took place and our own people [the music compilers] went to attend.

“They went to a workshop organised by 999 boss Arthur Mafokate and they were allegedly given money, but we don’t know what the money was paid for,” Kganyago said.

Mafokate refused to comment.

Kganyago confirmed that the 13 music compilers were at the SABC headquarters last week as the disciplinary action process continues.

He insisted that since the process was ongoing, no one had been found guilty of any wrong doing.

Kganyago wouldn’t clarify the status of the payola report, or whether the SABC was taking action based on its recommendations.

An SABC insider said payola was not a new problem for the public broadcaster.

Musicians have accused music compilers at the SABC of taking bribes from other recording artists for years, but evidence is yet to be found.

The source – who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media – said record companies and artists often target commercial radio stations to get their songs broadcast daily.

President of the Musicians’ Association of SA Tebogo Sithathu told City Press that the organisation had been engaging with the SABC for the past two years about several issues that were affecting artists.

“We need to get our hands on this forensic report because it’s in the public interest. The SABC’s responsibility is to inform, educate and entertain.

“They should release it,” he said.

In August last year, Motsoeneng told journalists that many musicians had complained to him that they were forced to pay at least R20 000 to ensure that music compilers scheduled their music to play on air.

Motsoeneng said he knew the names of some of the music compilers accused of taking bribes, but declined to name them at the time and said the matter would be investigated.

“I cannot ignore it when people come to me and complain about bribery. I have to do something about it.

“After introducing 90% [local content policy], we’ve been investigating SABC employees who are taking bribes,” Motsoeneng said at the time.