The SABC has blamed losses in the past financial year on events of national interest that were not budgeted for.
These were events that did not generate financial returns, the public broadcaster told Parliament’s communications committee on Tuesday.
Communications Minister Faith Muthambi was supposed to have led the presentation, but she had an engagement in Soshanguve, MPs heard. Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was present.
SABC acting CEO James Aguma said elections were part of the reason for the loss.
“For elections, we asked for funding of R32m. We got zero, and we funded it out of our reserves. So these factors are what led to a drop in cash,” he said.
For the 2015/16 financial year, the SABC reported a loss of R411m, and had R881m in cash.
Aguma encouraged the committee to look at the positive, rather than the negative. He said their assets at the end of the year outweighed revenue.
Other events of national interests included funerals of prominent South Africans, which were not budgeted for. Investment in broadcasting sports events also yielded negative returns, he said.
‘SABC not a normal broadcaster’
However, the social returns of these events could not be calculated in numbers, Aguma told the committee.
The global economic slowdown had also affected the broadcaster. The “exorbitant cost of sports rights, cost of employment and net income tax payment” led to a decrease in cash flow from R1bn in 2015, to R881m in 2016.
If the SABC was judged economically, it had made a loss, he said. But the social returns, he insisted, were “immeasurable”.
For example, for a sports event like the Comrades Marathon, they had to send 80 staff members to ensure it was broadcast in all official languages.
News cost the SABC R876m, sports rights R573m, and production costs amounted to R187m.
Aguma encouraged the committee to look at the loss in context.
“The SABC is not a normal broadcaster. It’s got to balance developmental needs and also in certain cases make sure that these needs are funded.
“Making services available in all official languages, at times we need to be judged or understood in that context.”