Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SABC claims cash from Unpaid Producers



Despite some erratic payments at the end of June 2009, SABC still owes independent TV producers tens of millions of rands for shows that have already been broadcast. And payments of millions of rands more are being delayed for months on end because of the SABC’s controversial asset control system. As part of that system, seemingly random fines of up to R100 000 are being imposed on producers for alleged lost assets.

The commissioning process is mired in red tape – nowhere more so than the signing off of a completed production. One aspect of this sign-off is assets. When a production company creates a series for SABC, everything that is bought for the production – sets, props, wardrobe, dressing and the like – becomes a SABC asset. At the end of the season the producer – who has invariably had to store these assets at their own cost or, more recently, leave them at an insecure SABC facility – must account for them. Down to the last sock, assets must be ticked off against a ledger of acquisitions. SABC appears to have only one Asset Controller covering all of their commissioned productions, a Ms Lerato Thage.

It can take months or even years for the SABC’s Asset Controller to get to checking a production’s assets. Until she does so, final payment for that production is withheld. Some production companies have been waiting for longer than a year and up to two years for this to happen.

Now production companies are also facing bizarre claims that vast amounts of assets are missing when the controller eventually does her checks. The industry has gone so far as to photograph assets in order to prove that they are accounted for – but SABC seems unwilling to engage over the issue. They seem intent on witholding money from production houses as a matter of course.

This may seem like a trivial issue, but it is causing even further delays and crises in outstanding payments to the industry – it is clearly a ruse to alleviate the SABC’s cashflow crisis at the cost of the independent production sector. The TVIEC demands honest, fair and efficient terms of trade with the national broadcaster.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: tvcrisis@gmail.com

This press release is written on behalf of the TVIEC (Television Industry Emergency Coalition) which consists of: IPO (Independent Producers Organization), SASFED (South African Screen Federation), TPA (The Producers Alliance), DFA (Documentary Filmmakers Association), WGSA (Writers Guild of South Africa) as well as the CWU (Creative Workers Union).