The Television Industry Emergency Coalition, which represents more than 80% of local television content on air, will stage a national protest action against the South African Broadcasting Cororation (SABC) on 4 June. The protest has been provoked by the public broadcaster’s non-payment of millions of rands to independent producers and the subsequent retrenchments that are occurring throughout the industry.
TVIEC estimates that up to R58-million is owed, but stresses that this amount is not confirmed as the SABC has been unwilling to reveal the extent of the debt. This amount does not take into account monies owed for royalties and repeat fees which artists, writers and producers have been struggling for years to elicit from the SABC.
The Coalition has met repeatedly during the past months with a high level group of SABC executives but has received neither credible feedback nor action on commitments made by the SABC at these meetings. Significantly, the CFO who is directly responsible for the fiscal management of the SABC – and thus the current non payment status quo – has not bothered to meet with the Coalition.
The TVIEC is simultaneously attempting to engage with the new Minister of Communications and other government stakeholders to facilitate urgent intervention and alleviation for the industry. The TVIEC is also researching legal options and the possibility of collectively withholding material from the SABC.
A TVIEC protest committee is co-ordinating participation by a broad spectrum of production companies, industry organisations, unions, friends of the industry, soapie stars, actors, technicians and the public at large.
Organisers have stressed that the campaign will be run in a responsible way, calling for immediate response to the demands for payment, for inclusive participation in the SABC’s turn around strategy and for interim management to be put in place to restore trust and integrity. It is anticipated that about 1,000 people will participate in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Whilst the demonstration calls have been sparked by the anger over non payment, the TVIEC is convinced that the real issues are much deeper and more significant: unfair terms of trade, unsustainable business relationships with the content creators, unfair rights ownership (IP) and a deep arrogance manifested in the heavy handed management style the SABC displays.
Budgets are lower than they were seven years ago. Price fixing of fees for crew and cast and unsustainable production fees have left companies vulnerable and exhausted, while SABC management take 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, 5-Star hotel suites and lavish entertainment.
TVIEC makes it clear that it is fighting for a transparent, fair and sustainable SABC that upholds the values of a credible and responsible public broadcaster, respectful of the South African public and its key partner in content supply – the local production sector.
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