Thursday, June 10, 2010

From Business Day report - Film firms face closure, SABC stalls

Film firms ‘face closure’ if SABC stalls further on local proposals

Chantelle Benjamin, Business Day, Johannesburg, 10 June 2010

INDEPENDENT film and documentary producers have warned that they will be forced to close their doors if SABC’s new board does not soon issue proposals for new local programmes, as promised.

The Television Industry Emergency Coalition said the new board, led by Ben Ngubane, had promised them in March that requests for proposals would be issued by the end of last month . The SABC last issued requests for programme ideas in September 2008 and then cancelled more than half of the potential programmes last year to cut costs.

A senior SABC official yesterday told Business Day that the delay was not the fault of the board, but of SABC management, which sent through documentation only towards the end of last month, “giving the board no real opportunity to look at the documents”. The board was expected to “look at some aspects of the RFP (request for programming) books today”, the official said.

Film producers have been hard hit by SABC’s financial problems, with the coalition estimating that 35000 jobs had been lost and “dozens of companies closed”.

Slow payments for shows currently being aired on SABC have led to protests by producers and a number of meetings with the interim board and now the new board .

The coalition said yesterday the SABC interim board had obtained government-guaranteed loans, in part to ensure the commissioning of new local programming , which would be in line with the SABC’s mandate to carry a certain percentage of local content.

The delay in commissioning also raises questions about the SABC’s ability to provide enough local content for the extra channels that will become available after SA’s migration to digital terrestrial television.

According to the coalition, the board told a meeting of some of its members, the Independent Producers Organisation of SA and the South African Screen Federation, that the SABC would release new requests for proposals no later than May 31 this year. The coalition said the board had “failed to approve the expenditure required for the new set of requests for proposals”.

Desiree Markgraaf, a member of the coalition, said the crisis for the production sector was far from over. “The SABC used to commission new content twice a year and there has been no new spend for two years. There are no reports of projects in production for 2011 or 2012.”

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said an internal approval process still had to be concluded before new commissioning could begin.