SABC must show progress to receive final bailout tranche - Minister

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says the South African Broadcasting Corporation will need to provide her department with a document detailing plans to solve its cashflow problems before it receives the remainder of a R3.2bn bailout. 

The bailout for the cash-strapped national broadcaster was announced in July. It is set to be given to the SABC in two portions, and the broadcaster must ensure that it adheres to a number of conditions for the full amount to be released.

In October Ndabeni-Abrahams announced that the SABC would receive R2.1bn of the funding. She told reporters on Thursday that the SABC's leadership was working to get its ducks in a row so that the remaining R1.1bn could be released.

"We did mention that when the bailout came, that there were conditions to the bailout. We needed to monitor the work of the SABC in terms of the spend of the bailout funds. As I speak, the SABC has committed to providing us with the document which informs their intervention by January."

Other requirements that came with the bailout money included the development of a turnaround strategy, an investigation into the broadcaster's financial collapse and cash flow projections for the next year and a half.

The minister said the financial assistance that the SABC received from the R2.1bn first tranche of the bailout gave it the freedom to make sound independent editorial and broadcasting decisions. The national broadcaster managed to broadcast sections of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the Miss World beauty pageant.

"We are confident that the SABC will come back to us and tell us that they no longer require funding. They have submitted a plan that should allow the broadcaster to get on a path of financial recovery," the minister said. 

She said her department was unequivocal that the SABC's leadership, especially where it relates to broadcast content and news coverage, should be free from political meddling and undue influence for content and news to thrive.

The SABC has for years been under severe financial strain, caused, in part, by low rates of payment for TV licenses. It made a loss of R482m in the most recent financial year. Its annual report, submitted in September, found that the public broadcaster incurred irregular expenditure to the tune of R5.2bn. The SABC also received a qualified audit opinion from the Auditor General for the 2018/19 financial year.

In November last year, meanwhile, then-board member Mathatha Tsedu warned the broadcaster would not be able to pay salaries without immediate financial assistance. 

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