TV producers allegedly bribed SABC officials to secure contracts

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is investigating reports that programming officials solicited bribes from production companies in return for securing contracts, City Press reports.

This comes after multiple producers submitted complaints to SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe, head of forensic Thami Zikode, and head of human capital Mojaki Mosia.

A whistle-blower alleged that certain officials were giving business to undeserving family members, friends, and associate producers, regardless of the quality of their content.

They accused the SABC officials of not knowing the culture of the majority of the people they served.

In May 2022, the SABC reported that declining audience numbers had caused its ad revenue to plummet by over R600 million.

The SABC said this was the most significant revenue loss it has suffered to date.

However, SABC COO Ian Plaatjes told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts that the decline is in line with global trends.

“The decline in audience is multi-causational and is a global trend, and there is not much that can be done about that,” Plaatjes stated.

The broadcaster’s CFO, Yolanda van Biljon, said that viewers’ shifting to online platforms was one of the aspects driving the revenue decline.

Van Biljon added that the SABC was changing its focus to ensure that it generates advertising revenue from digital platforms.

The SABC will achieve this feat through its partnerships with Telkom and E-media, which will grant the SABC access to their platforms — from where it can generate revenue.

Plaatjes also said that the broadcaster wants to launch its own over-the-top (OTT) platform later this year.

“SABC is at the final stage of accessing the sponsors of the digital platforms, and will have its own OTT platform in the market by the next quarter of the current financial year,” Plaatjes said.

The broadcaster is concerned that it could lose even more viewers when South Africa switches from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni recently clashed with the SABC regarding a statement it released highlighting its concerns over the slow rollout of set-top-boxes (STBs).

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

“As at February 2022, only 165,000 STBs out of the 2.9m indigent households (5.7%) had been installed in the four outstanding provinces,” it said.

“This number is simply too low for the SABC’s analogue TV services to be switched off in the four largest provinces, at this stage.”

These four outstanding provinces — Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape — are home to 68% of the country’s population.

Ntshavheni met with the SABC to address the statement, which she said besmirched her political credentials.

The state-owned broadcaster ultimately apologised to the minister after she threatened to cut it off from its funding.

The SABC is also losing revenue due to high TV licence evasion rates. In October 2021, it revealed that its TV licence revenue had declined by 0.4% to R788 million.

“This resulted in only 18% of the total licence fees billed being realised as revenue, which is very similar to that realised for the year ended 31 March 2020,” it said.

At the same time, the SABC’s advertising revenue dropped by R740 million — an 18% decrease.

In its most recent presentation to Parliament, the SABC showed that its TV licence evasion rate increased from 80.6% in 2020 to 82.1% in 2021.

The SABC has proposed several alternatives to the current TV licence regime to rectify the issue, including requiring MultiChoice to collect fees on its behalf.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and MultiChoice criticised the proposal and instead backed the idea of a general public media levy.

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TV producers allegedly bribed SABC officials to secure contracts