On Thursday 31 August, the Independent Producers’ Organisation (IPO) and the South African Screen Federation (SASFED), an umbrella body comprising 14 industry bodies, launched a joint Policy Document addressing issues that they believe are threatening the sustainability of the industry.
The Policy Document is organised around three main focus areas: Intellectual Property (IP) and copyright; public broadcaster SABC and other local broadcasters; and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Government Ministries and other Government Agencies. Task Teams for each focus area have been appointed and action plans drawn up.
Disappointingly, although representatives from the broadcasters, NFVF, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Government ministries and agencies were invited to the press conference, none were present.
SASFED chairperson Rehad Desai opened the proceedings by commenting that the film and television production landscape in SA was currently more optimistic than in past years. “However, what concerns us is that government has identified film and television as one of eight sectors targeted for accelerated growth in the Accelerated Shared Growth Strategy SA (ASGISA) and a number of initiatives have been created, but without any input from or consultation with our sector.
“We believe that the NFVF have been instrumental in the growth of our industry. But the NFVF must realise that the landscape has changed. The real issue at stake is the sustainability of the industry.”
IPO chairperson Desiree Markgraaff added: “The NFVF was created to be a facilitating body between the industry and government and not to be the industry voice. But until now, the industry has had no collective voice so the NFVF has been acting as our voice.”
Moving on to the SABC, Desai noted that producers had been “gobsmacked” to see the SABC had just posted an after tax profit of R383m. “We believe that some of the profits are due to the fact that the SABC has not yet met its local production mandate and because budgets have remained static for the last five years. You can’t have improved quality programming without improved budgets. Some producers are leaving the industry because they can’t make a living. Others are leaving the country to ply their trade elsewhere in the world.
“In the UK and Australia the broadcasters have moved from commissioning programmes to licensing them so that producers can own their programmes. That is what we’re pushing for with the local broadcasters.”
Said SASFED’s Pule Diphare, chair of the Documentary Filmmakers Association (DFA): “SABC has increased its profits but those people who contributed to increasing ratings by producing good quality local programmes are not sharing in this profit share.”
The SABC’s three-fold increase in local content programming over the past two years had been instrumental, noted Desai and Markgraaff, in the “administrative quagmire” the broadcaster was now experiencing. “There is a severe lack of capacity in the SABC’s legal and finance departments which is causing delays in contracts being signed and producers being paid out. Furthermore, there seems to be a rapid turnaround of staff at the SABC and no institutional memory. Sixteen producers have vowed that they won’t work with the SABC again until things are sorted out,” commented Desai and Markgraaff.
Also under discussion at the press conference was the big focus by the IDC and Customised Sector Programme on foreign direct investment. While this undeniably resulted in job creating, it didn’t take SA’s cultural imperatives into account.
See the front page story on the Policy Document in the September issue of Screen Africa.