David Scott, of live electronic act The Kiffness, has launched a petition urging the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to pay the nearly R250 million it owes to South African musicians in royalties.
The public broadcaster has received a government bailout of R2.1 billion, and is set to receive a further R1.1 billion if certain conditions are met.
In March this year, Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams confirmed that the SABC owed R248 million in royalties following a question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) in parliament.
The organisations with outstanding amounts were the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) – owed R125.8 million; the South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAPRA) – owed R104.2 million; the Association of Independent Record Companies (AIRCO) – R8.8 million; the Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) – R3.3 million; and the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO) – R6 million. This is all money that the organisations would then pay to local musicians for royalties.
Scott posted an open letter to the SABC on Monday, following it up later the same day with a petition.
“I pay my TV license, though I don’t even watch SABC. But I do it anyway because it’s the law. So now I call on you to return the favour by paying your outstanding R250 million royalty licenses. You can’t use ‘we’re broke’ as an excuse, you literally have R2.1 billion now. Private stations do it. Restaurants do it. So should you. To quote you, ‘It’s the right thing to do’.
“Look it at it this way – R250 million is a mere 10% of your bailout budget, a tithe if you will. But to us musicians, it is our bread [and] butter.”
Scott goes on to ask the public if they’re “ok supporting stations that don’t even support the people that make you listen to the radio in the first place. If not, consider switching to private stations until SABC changes their ways.” He then asks the companies that advertise on the SABC and his fellow musicians similar questions. The full letter and petition can be found below.
The Citizen contacted SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu, who confirmed the debt and said that settlement of the broadcaster’s many debts was a priority to them following the bailout.
“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. 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.
“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.”
The Citizen asked Mthembu if she felt the SABC could expect people to pay their TV licenses when the company itself has so many unsettled debts.
“We will always urge South Africans to pay their TV licenses as not only is it a legal requirement, but the payment of TV licenses goes a long way in enabling the SABC to provide compelling content on both television and radio and for the SABC, this is what we endeavour to do as we fulfil our public service mandate,” she said.