The SABC’s financial struggles have not only affected its ability to broadcast local sport on its television channels – South African musicians have also been shortchanged by the public broadcaster.
Earlier this year, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams revealed that the SABC owed local musicians over R248 million in royalties.
Now that the SABC has received a R2.1-billion bailout from the government to prevent a broadcasting blackout, local musicians are demanding that the public broadcaster pay off this debt.
Earlier this month, South African musician David Scott (The Kiffness) posted an open letter on Facebook addressed to the SABC, imploring the public broadcaster to pay the R248 million it owes to local musicians.
Shortly afterwards, Scott started a Change.org petition calling for the SABC to pay its royalty debt.
The petition encouraged the public, advertisers, and other musicians to boycott SABC radio stations until it has paid off its debt. It was shared by a number of prominent musicians on Facebook and other social media platforms.
The right thing to do
In the petition, Scott argues that the SABC’s recent bailout means it now has no excuse not to pay its outstanding royalties.
“I pay my TV license, though I don’t even watch SABC. But I do it anyway because it’s the law,” Scott said.
“So now I, along with the South African public, call on the SABC to return the favour by paying their outstanding R250-million royalty licences.”
The amounts owed by the SABC to royalty collecting agencies are detailed below:
|Money Owed by SABC|
|South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO)||R125,804,694|
|South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA)||R104,214,525|
|Association of Independent Record Companies (AIRCO)||R8,800,000|
|Recording Industry of South Africa (RISA)||R3,300,000|
|Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO)||R6,000,000|
“You can’t use ‘we’re broke’ as an excuse, you literally have R2.1 billion now,” Scott wrote, addressing the SABC.
“Private stations do it. Restaurants do it. So should you. To quote you, ‘It’s the right thing to do’.”
Boycott and radio
The SABC owns some of the biggest radio stations in South Africa, including Metro FM, RSG, Radio 2000, 5FM, Good Hope FM, and SAfm.
Making it onto one of these radio stations is often the dream of many local musicians, despite the fact that the SABC might not pay them the required royalties for their airtime.
Scott argued that South African musicians, advertisers, and listeners should keep the SABC accountable and help musicians to earn the income they are owed.
“I know how cool it is to have your track on the 5FM Top 40, but I’ve realised that having royalties to put a downpayment on a house and having an actual retirement annuity fund from SAMRO is way cooler,” Scott said.
He said that the public should switch to private stations, advertisers should pull their purchases, and musicians should stop sending their music to the SABC until the company changed its ways and began paying musicians their royalties.
MyBroadband asked the SABC to comment on the outstanding royalty fees owed to South African musicians.
“The SABC can confirm that it currently owes royalties to collecting societies and can also confirm that it has in place, royalties payment structures/plans to deal with the outstanding monies,” said SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu.
“The SABC has stated on numerous platforms that the bailout requested would be utilised to settle outstanding accounts with service and content providers, invest in the procuring of local content, as well as the maintenance of our infrastructure and critical broadcast equipment.”
She added that the views of the public have been noted by the SABC.
“The first portion of government funding of R2.1 billion which has been received will be utilised accordingly and the settling of outstanding payments remains a priority for the organisation.”
“The SABC appreciates and understands that every South African has a say in the public service broadcaster and various views in the public domain on the organisation are noted,” Mthembu said.