Fears the SABC will be forced off air

There is uncertainty about a loan guarantee from the government to the SABC despite a meeting between the SABC board and Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

This is according to a City Press report, which said the meeting included “inevitable discussions” about fears that the SABC will be forced off air if does not get financial help soon.

SABC chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon recently warned that day zero, which can lead to a total SABC blackout, can happen “tomorrow” if their biggest debtors stop supporting them.

The SABC’s serious financial crisis 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 raise money from lenders to stay afloat.

Day Zero is close

Van Biljon confirmed in an SABC interview that the organisation is facing serious financial challenges because of its crippling debt of between R1.7-R1.8 billion.

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 10 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.

Guarantee dependent on broader SOE negotiations

According to the City Press, the R3.2-billion government guarantee the SABC wants is dependent on “broader negotiations involving other state-owned enterprises (SOEs)”.

“The delay in obtaining the government guarantee seems to be because the SABC is part of a collective of SOEs asking for a government guarantee/bailout”, the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) said.

Citing sources close to the SABC board, the City Press reported that the state broadcaster may have to wait until the medium-term budget policy statement in October for relief from the government.

Day Zero Warning

Now read: SABC Day Zero can happen tomorrow – CFO

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Fears the SABC will be forced off air