Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gabs Mampone, acting GCEO and his view on producing more content in-house at SABC - ICASA and regulations.

As many of you will know Kate Skinner of SOS spoke on Redi Direko's show on 702 on the 21st of May. She discussed the financial crisis at the SABC from 10:15 to 11:00 and was joined unexpectedly by Gabs Mampone, acting GCEO. He was saying that one of the ways forward on the producer crisis was to produce documentaries, dramas etc. in-house. This was the first time that the independent production sector had heard the suggestion. It was also not at all clear how the SABC was going to save money by adopting this new approach.

If anybody wants to listen to the actual words of the interview on 702 with Kate in which Gabs appeared, Marc Schwinges purchased a copy and put it up for you to download here. Scary stuff and well worth listening to - to to hear what Gabs had to say and what his understanding of the industry is!

Gabs did go on to say that ICASA regulations require that at least 60% of local content be produced by independents. It's not actually true, since the regulations only require 40%... but lets not remind him of that! Better yet let's get ICASA to increase it to 60%?

Marc called in to the show towards the end of the session because it appeared to him that Gabs was misleading the public, telling them 100% of all local content is commissioned externally. "That's simply not true" commented Schwinges on air "News, Sport, Current Affairs and Special projects make up a huge percentage of airtime and the Rand value of local content - and these are handled completely in-house. Additionally "independents" are often compelled to use SABC resources (studios and facilities) for their projects... so to say it's 100% of local content done externally is blatantly untrue."

Marc analysed an old 2002 ETV Local Content Summary, which he still had on file. This is as E-TV submitted to ICASA in 2002 and from this example of data it was clear that 93 721 minutes of their 180 058 total local content for the year was just News and Current Affairs! That means in 2002 ETV was already doing more than 52% of its local content JUST in two genres! If you take into consideration that almost all programming except those two genres have repeats which count towards the local content total... (50% for first repeat), we see that 41840 was reported as total minutes in repeats for that year and that's half the commissioned content! It therefore makes sense that of the local content E-TV reported on for 2002, only about 25% was actually commissioned!

Marc does not believe SABC is in a much better position now and has requested a similar page from recent SABC submissions to ICASA over the last three years. ICASA has responded that the last two years compliance report on SABC are still not ready! This in itself is shocking, but at least they have agreed to assist supplying the requested raw data ASAP.

Remember that section 6 of the IBA Act of 1993 as amended says that at least 40% of local television programming must consist of programmes which are independent television productions. We need to FIGHT that this is increased and actually monitored, reported on and complied with.

ICASA has to our knowledge never reported on compliance of this regulation. Also remember that between years (let alone within the same year), ICASA has no effective means of monitoring repeats, and confirming per clause 8A (d) that further repeats past the first one (or if on another channel, or as part of an "omnibus" 2nd one counts), additional repeats don't count towards local content quotas! This is especially important as we note the increasing repeats of local content on air. Remember they WON'T count towards the local content quotas!

Marc comments that "To say producing in-house is cheaper is also untrue as the major cost currently on the "commissioned" content is clearly running the content hub itself (as much as 60% from what we know goes to running the content hub). If those costs were cut... we know that commissioned content would be cheaper than producing in-house. We ultimately only need to hold broadcasters accountable to clause 6 of the act, on the 40% issue... and actually INSIST on their latest compliance data to ICASA. We need to insist that ICASA monitor this accurately... it's in the act so why is compliance on this being ignored?"

Marc suggests a formal review of recent reports on SABC at ICASA (and if these areas are still omitted) then a formal industry wide complaint on these issues.