SABC owes artists millions in unpaid royalties

(Photo: Channel24/Supplied)
(Photo: Channel24/Supplied)

Cape Town – The SABC owes singers and musicians millions of rands in unpaid royalties and more millions in residuals to actors, with the struggling public broadcaster on the brink of financial collapse, blaming its severe money woes for its failure to pay.

The SABC on Wednesday told parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) that the SABC "is behind with royalty payments" and owes artists at least R75.4m.

The SABC owes the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) R14.5m, the SA Music Performance Rights Association (Sampra) R52.7m, the Association of Independent Record Companies (ARIC) R2.8m, the Composers Authors and Publishers Association (Capasso) R3m and the Recording Industry of South Africa (Risa) R2.4m.

The SABC didn't provide any numbers for the outstanding millions it owes actors and writers for residuals for the rebroadcasts and repeats of TV shows like Sgudi 'Snaysi on SABC1 and the library shows broadcast on its SABC Encore channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

The SABC told parliament that the last time it paid any royalties to artists was in December 2016 but didn't specify an amount, and blames the public broadcaster's cash-strapped status.

The SABC also failed to pay all artists, winners and contributors for the 2017 Metro FM Awards held months ago. 

Bessie Tugwana, acting COO, blamed the SABC's non-payment of artists on a "struggle to get verified documentation so we could pay" and the SABC's "cash-flow problem". She told parliament that everyone will be paid at the end of May.

A year ago, in May 2016, SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago announced that the SABC will immediately increase the royalty tariff paid to artists for music content played on the SABC's 18 radio stations and TV channels from 3.2% to 4% - but nothing came of that, with the SABC unable to even pay the 3.2%.

The SABC referring to its situation as "dire" and saying it's "limping from day to day", told parliament on Wednesday that the "90% local content" decree for local music airplay on radio and "80% local content" on SABC TV ordered by the former chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng has destroyed the public broadcaster and is threatening the very existence of the SABC that doesn't have the money to pay for it.

New SABC interim deputy chairperson Mathatha Tshedu revealed that the SABC blew an additional R72m on new local content to replace other local content no longer deemed suitable, for the 90% local content policy.

"We are looking at taking back detrimental consequences of some decisions. We are looking at the 90% which saw both the television and radio losing millions. Its implementation has to take cognisance of the fact that it mustn't threaten the existence of the SABC itself, which is what it is doing."

The SABC revealed that it wasted another R74m in TV content it bought but never showed, marked as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The SABC, now struggling to pay staff and producers, further spent hundreds of millions of rand on irregular content buying, for instance R63m in 2016/17 and R240m in 2015/16.

Already owing them millions of rand in outstanding payments, last week the SABC told South African producers going forward that it only wants to pay them 25% monthly of the money they're due although they're expected to keep delivering 100% of the content the SABC requires to keep its TV channels on the air.

Communications minister Ayanda Dlodlo told parliament that "the dire state of the SABC wasn't brought to us voluntarily by executives. We had to dig".

Dlodlo said the SABC's initial bailout request to treasury was inadequate. "It was like putting an Elastoplast on a wound instead of treating the wound".

After getting a bailout in the form of a R1.47bn government-guaranteed Nedbank loan in 2009 during its previous bailout when the SABC teetered on the brink of collapse eight years ago, it's not yet known what amount in another government-guaranteed loan the SABC is seeking this time in its next bailout.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24