Could ‘TV loadshedding’ be the future for the SABC as the cash-strapped broadcaster can’t afford to pay for content?
Cape Town – With the South African public broadcaster in extreme trouble, its programming schedules are filled with repeats and rebroadcasts of old shows.
Since the beginning of this month The Bold and the Beautiful was abruptly gone from SABC3 with the contract ending. The broadcaster is now showing repeats of old content even during prime time on its channels. A repeat of 2017, Taryn & Sharon, is now rebroadcast on weekdays in prime time on SABC3, as well as SABC2’s former telenovela Keeping Score that is getting a re-airing now on SABC3 also in prime time.
Seasons of long-running shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race that used to alternate on SABC3 no longer appear on the March or even April schedules.
Meanwhile SABC2 is dusting off library series like 2010’s The Joey Rasdien Show, back for yet another repeat.
Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, warned parliament that a “black-on-air” scenario will happen soon without a government bailout of the beleaguered broadcaster that is on the precipice of financial collapse and will be technically insolvent at the end of this month.
Last month the minister of finance, Tito Mboweni, revealed after his budget speech in parliament that the SABC needs a whopping R6.8bn in cash as a government bailout to survive.
Mxakwe, who said that the SABC’s cash flow is completely depleted, said the SABC "cannot adhere to all our committed contracts".
"We cannot even commission local content production as a result of all of the severe liquidity challenges that we're facing."
"The situation is so bad that several major content providers of key programmes actually refuse to engage with us. Understandably, because we have not been able to pay them in the past couple of months," added Mxakwe.
"We can't acquire sports rights. Owing to our liquidity challenges we are not able to do it."
"In terms of the significant suppliers that are due and overdue, you are looking at Sentech, we're looking at SuperSport, Samro, as well as other providers of content that we have not been able to pay."
'CAN'T PAY EMPLOYEES' SALARIES'
Mxakwe told parliament that "the SABC cannot guarantee that it will be able to pay its employees’ salaries at the end of March 2019. Should this crisis not be addressed as a matter of urgency, the SABC would be unable to operate and the 'black-on-air' scenario is a real and highly possible threat."
The minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said later on Tuesday that the National Treasury will give some money to the SABC in order to pay staff salaries at the end of March. The amount was not disclosed.
The SABC told parliament that since October 2018 the broadcaster's audience share has been declining, with its revenue that is expected to continue to decline in the 4th quarter of its financial year.
Yolande van Biljon, the SABC's chief financial officer (CFO), told parliament that "our audience share is declining as a result of a combination of factors and we anticipate it to continue."
She added: "Of our television stations, SABC1 remains the top-performing station but we're also too heavily reliant on it. It is outperforming the prior year revenue but it is the targets for this year which are not being met for all three TV channels."
Van Biljon said: "We have incidents almost once a month where either there's a fire or a roof caves in as a result of the severe storms we've been having in Johannesburg. All of it are symptoms of our inability to maintain our infrastructure."