SABC chief financial officer, Yolandi van Biljon warned that Day Zero, which can lead to a total blackout, can happen “tomorrow” if their biggest debtors stop supporting them.
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.
The state broadcaster opted to pay salaries, meaning it now owes the City of Johannesburg more than R13.5 million.
Apart from its municipal bills, the SABC owes Sentech R317 million and MultiChoice division SuperSport R208 million.
The SABC is now looking for a R3.2 billion government guarantee to help it to raise money from lenders to stay afloat.
SABC drowning in debt
Van Biljon confirmed in an SABC interview that the organisation is facing serious financial challenges because of its crippling debt of between R1.7 and R1.8 billion.
This debt is due and payable, which means the SABC faces a balancing act between its various priorities, including staff salaries, critical operational requirements, and content.
Van Biljon said the broadcaster’s financial situation worsened over the past few months and was aggravated by low income during this period.
The R3.2 billion, if the SABC receives this money, will be used to pay its debtors, invest in content, and improving its aging infrastructure.
Day Zero is close
Van Biljon said if any of the big parties which they owe large sums of money to – such as Sentech and SuperSport – demand their money, the SABC will not be able to pay salaries.
She said ten institutions are owed most of the debt – around R1 billion – and the only thing keeping the SABC afloat is these companies not claiming immediate payment.
“I think Day Zero can happen tomorrow. It depends if one of these big partners are unable to support us financially,” said Van Biljon.
She warned that the SABC can also be forced to switch off its signal and distribution network or its critical infrastructure can fail, which would lead to a total blackout.