As at 24 August, Johannesburg producer/director Michael Lee had gone 14 days without food to protest against the SABC’s plan to cut spend on local content production by over half a billion rand next year.
Lee’s hunger strike is to raise awareness of the fatal consequences the SABC’s strategy will have for programme diversity and production industry livelihoods.
With his protest, Lee is not only highlighting the situation for his friends and colleagues who are struggling to feed their families; he aims also to call attention to the bigger picture: the starving of local content and how that will narrow the public conversation in this country.
“Slashing local content will violate regulatory mandates, crush diversity that has taken years of sacrifice to achieve, and cause massive job losses and company collapses, reducing the programme makers to a few favoured companies cranking out in bulk. Ultimately it’s the audience that doesn’t get value for their TV licences, and the nation’s identity and unity that suffers.”
Lee demands that the SABC put a stop to this devastating plan and commit to a way forward that takes the public and the economy into account. He has called on others to join this protest. “Audience, industry, anyone,” he says. “Even for just a day or two. Let’s let the broadcaster know in a clear, communal way, we won’t tolerate the starving of local content.” He advises such a fast be done under the consultation of a doctor, if it goes longer than two days.”
Lee is a board member of the South African Screen Federation (SASFED) and will be in attendance at the action planned at the SABC this Thursday by the Television Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC).