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Financially desperate South African Production houses take on SABC

A coalition of television workers plans to protest against the public broadcaster’s non-payment of millions of rands to independent producers which, it claims, has led to retrenchments throughout the industry.

The Television Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC), which claims to represent more than 80% of local content on air, said the protest would take place next Thursday. “The protest has been provoked by the public broadcaster’s nonpayment of millions of rands to independent producers and the subsequent retrenchments that are occurring throughout the industry,” the coalition said yesterday. Production companies, industry organisations, unions, friends of the industry, soapie stars, actors and technicians were expected to take part in the action. The coalition said the protest, scheduled to take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town, had not only been sparked by anger over nonpayment, but also by “much deeper and more significant issues”.

These included “unfair terms of trade, unsustainable business relationships with the content creators, unfair rights ownership and a deep arrogance manifested in the heavy- handed management style the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) displays”. The coalition said it had held several meetings with the SABC in past months, but had not received any “credible feedback”. “Crews and cast are without work, production companies are facing closure and viewers are being cheated of quality programming.

“Estimates of up to R58m owed have been made, but it is not possible to confirm this amount as the SABC has been unwilling to reveal the extent of the debt,” said the TVIEC. The SABC is facing a R784m deficit this year. It has been plagued by in- fighting between its axed CEO Dali Mpofu and its former head of news, Snuki Zikalala, while at least three board members have resigned since March. Beeld newspaper reported yesterday that local producers had received a text message from the SABC, telling them to stop all new production. Several newspapers had reported that popular soap operas such as Isidingo and 7de Laan might be pulled off air because of nonpayment. The coalition said budgets were now lower than they were seven years ago. “This while SABC management takes home exorbitant fees and performance bonuses - some bonuses exceed an entire year’s production fee for a major daily soap - and enjoy first-class air travel, five-star hotel suites and lavish entertainment,” it said. SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said he was not aware of the planned protest. “We are finalising a follow-up meeting between them and us.

“We are trying to find a relevant date for that,” he said. Kganyago said the SABC was also due to meet disgruntled unions yesterday to discuss the implementation of salary increases. Sapa

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