SABC funding can ‘kicked down the road’

Pranav Bhatt/Flickr

The new SABC Bill fails to ensure an immediate funding model for the SABC, and this risks fuelling another financial crisis for the public broadcaster, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has warned.

Outa said on Tuesday that the SABC needs strong legislation and policies to restore public trust and guarantee editorial independence, as well as a stronger funding strategy.

“It is an undeniable fact that the SABC has been plagued for years by financial instability and management issues,” Outa said in a submission to parliament on the SABC Bill, which had been out for public comment until 16 January.

“There is no doubt about the SABC’s value as a public broadcaster and we believe this role needs support. In particular, funding is one of the most critical areas of the SABC’s model that has failed – and something the new SABC Bill unsuccessfully tries to address.”

Outa’s senior legal project manager, Andrea van Heerden, said: “The bill has effectively kicked the funding can down the road by not laying out any specific changes or proposals.”

The civil action organisation is concerned that the three-year delay in developing a funding model, as proposed in the bill, could place the SABC in an even more precarious financial position than it’s already in. Its finances are already on shaky ground, with the SABC recording a R1.1-billion loss for the 2023 financial year.

Financial certainty

Outa is concerned about how long it will take to identify and implement alternatives and said the SABC needs financial certainty for the interim period, which the bill does not provide for.

“Instead of the bill dealing with the SABC’s financial crisis, TV licences remain, and the ministers of communications and finance are alone tasked with identifying a new funding model,” Van Heerden said.

Outa suggested a regular annual state grant for the SABC’s public broadcasting services, instead of flogging the dead TV licence fee collection model. This would avoid the irregular and disastrous last-minute bailouts and provide a more stable revenue stream, particularly for the public broadcasting sector.

Read: Hlaudi Motsoeneng refuses to pay back SABC millions

“This regular annual state grant could be seen as a grant in the furtherance of democracy. Outa suggests cutting funding to wasteful programmes and diverting some of this to the SABC. For example, the national and provincial legislatures could provide some funding in the furtherance of democracy. These institutions manage to provide hundreds of millions of rand to political parties to support democracy, and Outa believes that some of these funds could be more usefully diverted to the SABC,” said Van Heerden.

Outa said it supports the continued existence of a national broadcaster, but said the SABC Bill raises red flags regarding government interference in the commercial and operational aspects of the SABC. As a result, it has urged the committee to refer the bill back to the department of communications & digital technologies.  – © 2024 NewsCentral Media

AI-generated summary of this article

  • The article discusses the SABC’s financial crisis and the government’s reluctance to bail it out.
  • The article argues that the SABC needs a new business model that is less dependent on advertising and more aligned with public service.
  • The article warns that delaying the funding decision will worsen the situation.

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