SABC cutbacks have put some producers out of work

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The SABC cutbacks have put producers out of work. As KatlehoRamaphakela, Burnt Onion Productions MD said: "A production company can't survive off one project anymore unless it's a recurring daily show or one of the seven soap operas"
While the creators of feature films receive incentives from government, the local television production industry is out in the cold.

Though South Africa's commercials industry has long been a success - it has grown consistently, wins accolades and punches above its weight globally - television production is under severe pressure, mainly because of the financial woes of the public broadcaster, SA's largest commissioner of local content.

SABC spokesman KaizerKganyago says in 2011, the broadcaster commissioned 142 productions. In November, it released 42 requests for proposals from which it expects 50 productions to be commissioned.

He says the SABC spent R649m on local content in 2010 and R684m in 2011. The latest proposals for new local content are reportedly worth R200m.

The broadcaster's spend has been cut from the more than R1bn it spent before it was plunged into a leadership crisis in 2009. Kganyago says investment in local content is based on schedule needs and available funds.

In response to the SABC crisis, the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) conducted research to assess the value of the production industry and the amount that broadcasters spent on content. The study found that in 2008 the SABC alone spent R1,1bn on content commissioned from independent production companies. Pay-TV provider MultiChoice spent R200m and free-to-air channel e.tv spent R150m while foreign producers spent R200m.

The SABC's cutbacks have brought about a serious decline in the industry. In early 2012, producers submitted proposals for new series to the SABC, but so far, not one has received a response.

The CEO of production facilities provider Sasani Africa, Eileen Sandrock, says the broadcaster's woes continue to cause strain in the production industry. "Several companies have gone insolvent as a direct result of problems at the SABC," she says. "A number of programmes fell away altogether and the SABC continues to squeeze rates."

One of the most recent closures was that of TOM Pictures, headed by filmmakers Akin Omotoso, Robbie Thorpe and KgomotsoMatsunyane. The company, founded in 2003, produced several large shows including Soul City, Soul Buddyz, A Place Called Home and Nomzamo. However, the lack of new productions meant it could not continue operating and closed earlier this year.