25 May 2009
TV INDUSTRY TO STAGE NATIONAL PROTEST ACTION
AGAINST SABC ON 4 JUNE 2009
The television industry in South Africa is reeling due to the monetary and management crisis at the SABC. Crews and cast are without work, production companies are facing closure and viewers are being cheated of quality programming.
The Television Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC) was formed in response to the crisis. Together we represent more than 80% of the local content on air. In a meeting of the coalition in Johannesburg on 18 May it was decided to proceed with plans for a demonstration against the current management and administration of the SABC.
The protest has been provoked by the public broadcaster’s non-payment of millions of rand to independent producers and the subsequent retrenchments that are occurring throughout the industry. Estimates of up to R58-million owed have been made but it is not possible to confirm this amount as the SABC has been unwilling to reveal the extent of the debt. This amount does not take into account monies owed for royalties and repeat fees which artists, writers and producers have been struggling for years to elicit from the SABC.
The TVIEC is fighting FOR the SABC – for a transparent, fair and sustainable SABC that upholds the values of a credible and responsible public broadcaster, respectful of the South African public and its key partner in content supply – the local production sector.
Whilst the demonstration calls have been sparked by the anger over non payment, the TVIEC is convinced that the real issues are much deeper and more significant: unfair terms of trade, unsustainable business relationships with the content creators, unfair rights ownership (IP) and a deep arrogance manifested in the heavy handed management style the SABC displays.
Budgets are lower than they were seven years ago. Price fixing of fees for crew and cast and unsustainable production fees have left companies vulnerable and exhausted, while SABC management take home exorbitant fees and performance bonuses – some bonuses exceed an entire year’s production fee for a major daily soap – and enjoy first class air travel, 5 star hotel suites and lavish entertainment.
The Coalition has met repeatedly during the past months with a high level group of SABC executives but has received neither credible feedback nor action on commitments made by the SABC at these meetings. The Coalition is particularly dismayed that the CFO who is directly responsible for the fiscal management of the SABC - and thus the current non payment status quo - has not bothered to meet with the Coalition.
The industry has said NO MORE! A protest date has now been set for 4 June 2009. A TVIEC protest committee is coordinating participation by a broad spectrum of production companies, industry organisations, unions, friends of the industry, soapie stars, actors, technicians and the public at large.
Organisers have stressed that the campaign will be run in a responsible way, calling for immediate response to the demands for payment, for inclusive participation in the SABC’s turn around strategy and for interim management to be put in place to restore trust and integrity. It is anticipated that about 1,000 people will participate in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The TVIEC is simultaneously attempting to engage with the new Minister of Communications and other government stakeholders to facilitate urgent intervention and alleviation for the industry. The TVIEC is also researching legal options and the possibility of collectively withholding material from the SABC.
The president has called for a new dawn, we hope this applies to the SABC.
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