SABC denies claims it will ask for another bailout

The SABC offices in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency

Sunday Times reported that the SABC projected a R2 billion loss because of Covid-19-related content, and that it would be approaching Parliament for an additional bailout.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has rejected claims made by the Sunday Times that the broadcaster has once again cited revenue shortfalls. 

In the article, Sunday Times reported that the SABC projected a R2 billion loss because of Covid-19-related content, often broadcast in peak viewing times. Board members of the broadcaster told the publication this meant a significant decrease in advertising revenue. 

It further reported that the SABC would ask for a bailout before Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications and digital technology on Monday. 

“This is not true,” SABC acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said

“The SABC has not requested any additional funding, and has no meeting scheduled for tomorrow with the Portfolio Committee on this matter.

“In fact, the SABC will be presenting its 2020/2021 Corporate Plan to the Portfolio committee on Wednesday,” Seapolelo added. 

The SABC admitted that advertising revenue had been affected across the media industry due to the current pandemic, resulting in many media houses looking at cost-cutting mechanisms, but insisted the revenue shortfall figures and forecasted losses quoted by the Sunday Times are “inaccurate”. 

The article cited a loss of R282 million due to the broadcasting of Covid-19-related content, and a predicted loss of R2.5 billion over the next eight moths. 

“The correct forecasted numbers have been submitted to the Shareholder and will be presented to the portfolio Committee in due course,” Seapolelo explained. 

The broadcaster made no mention, however, of the Sunday Times’ allegations that the SABC has been trying to renegotiate previously agreed upon 6% employee salary hikes. 

The article said the national broadcaster had tried to engage unions in discussions, but due to the legally binding nature of the prior agreement, part of a three-year wage settlement agreement dating back to 2018, the SABC’s suggestions were rejected. 

The SABC did however assure it had instituted measures “to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on its operations.”

Last year, the broadcaster received a lifeline from government, in the form of a R3.2 billion bailout

The SABC lost billions through gross mismanagement under former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, with funds expected to have been used for infrastructure maintenance, procuring “compelling content” to draw advertising revenue and meet audience needs, and settle its R1.6 billion debt. 

Under Motsoeneng, the SABC said it incurred irregular expenditure of R5.2 billion. 

“Considering the above, the SABC would like to state categorically that there is no application for any additional bailout from Treasury. 

“Since it received its bailout allocation from Treasury, the SABC has restored a healthy working capital cycle aligned with the cashflow forecasting models,” Seapolelo said. 

(Compiled by Nica Richards)

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