The SABC is facing a serious financial crisis which forced it to make a difficult decision at the end of May – pay salaries or pay municipal bills.
This is according to a Sunday Times report, which said the state broadcaster opted to pay salaries, meaning it now owes the City of Johannesburg more than R13.5 million.
This decision did not solve its financial problems, and SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini told the Sunday Times that the broadcaster is not sure if it will be able to pay salaries this month.
Apart from its municipal bills, the SABC owes Sentech R317 million and MultiChoice division SuperSport R208 million.
Total blackout warning
Due to its financial problems, the SABC has also stopped maintaining its infrastructure and Makhathini warned that a communication blackout is imminent.
This followed a similar warning by SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe who said in May that the public broadcaster was in danger of experiencing a total broadcasting blackout due to its crippling debt and lack of relief funding.
Mxakwe said the SABC is not able to pay its creditors and while the company’s application for a R6.8-billion bailout was approved, the funds have not yet arrived.
This means that if it is unable to secure sufficient funding, the SABC will be forced to cut its national broadcast due to the inability to continue operations.
“We never had a blackout before, but if the funding doesn’t come soon the possibility of a blackout is imminent,” Mxakwe said.
No serious cost-cutting
To cut costs and make itself sustainable, the SABC previously planned to retrench up to 981 permanent employees and 1,200 of its 2,400 freelancers.
However, political pressure forced the broadcaster to abandon the mass retrenchment process it outlined late last year.
This decision followed a number of engagements between the SABC, its employees, and various stakeholders.
The SABC acknowledged that it needs to review its increase in costs and conduct a thorough skills audit.
The outcome of this audit, the SABC said, will provide it with a more defined structure and plan for the future.
“This will ensure that the SABC meets its strategic objective of operating optimally and competitively in a digitised environment,” said the SABC.