The DFA was established in 2007 to promote and protect the interests of doc filmmakers in South Africa. To contact the DFA, please use the contact form: here . The DFA website is at: www.docfilmsa.com Membership applications can be made through the website here.

19 September 2009

TVIEC UPDATE


16 SEPTEMBER 2009

Another urgent request for information

TVIEC meeting with SABC Interim Board

NEW request for information: URGENT

Thank you to all of you who provided information on how the SABC crisis has affected your business. We are now looking for further information to present to the Department of Trade and Industry in our appeal to find rescue funds for our industry. It is crucial that you take some time to respond to this request.

We need to be able to tell the department the extent of the job losses within the television industry. Please can you answer the following questions:

1. How many people would your company normally employ in a good year?

Please try to use figures over the last three years. Please include in your answer:

a) The number of skilled artisans – crew, admin and cast

b) The remainder of your permanent and freelance employees. The broadest range of these, down to the last extra on your set and the last voice artist in your post-production facility. (Ie: If you had 300 extras in a drama, this counts as well as the person who takes care of the honeywagon – everyone counts. Every job makes a difference.)

2. How many people do you estimate will you employ in this year (Feb 2009 – Feb 2010)?

3. How many permanent staff do you normally employ?

4. How many permanent staff have you let go this year?

5. What percentage drop in turnover have you experienced this year?

6. If you are not contracted by SABC within the next 3 months, what are the consequences for your company?

Please let us have these answers before the end of the week if possible. Mail them to: tvcrisis@gmail.com

TVIEC session with the SABC Interim Board

The TVIEC engaged with the SABC Interim Board at a session during last week’s People 2 People conference. Although the full minutes of the meeting will be made available in due course, the core issues were:

* The Interim Board expressed a keen desire to work with the independent television industry and apologised for the SABC’s role in the current crisis.
* However, the board cannot commission new programming right now as this would amount to reckless trading.
* The board’s Plan A was a bail-out. This was refused. Plan B is to request that Treasury underwrite a loan. The board’s plan is to have new funding in place by November 2009 and for commissioning to continue at this stage. They are looking at securing funding for a three year period.
* The board stressed that they intend to deliver on local content mandates and will not request leniency from the regulator.
* The board was alarmed to learn of the collapse of the SABC/TVIEC weekly operations meeting – and therefore the payment plan. They assured us they will intervene in the matter. (The next Ops meeting is set for Friday this week. We understand how frustrating the verification process is for you and we will tackle SABC on the issue on Friday).

Continued call for Funds

The TVIEC kitty is almost empty. This is an urgent appeal to companies and individuals to please make a donation to help us keep fighting for change at the SABC and to keep lobbying government. If you can spare R1 000 that would be great, but any amount will be a help. As per our last mass meeting, we are wanting to retain legal advice to look at pro bono action against the SABC. If you can help, please mail tvcrisis@gmail.com.

OUR CONTACT: tvcrisis@gmail.com

15 September 2009

A word on the SABC Board interview Process


Hello all

So much has now been said about the SABC Board interview process that it is hard to say much more! Anyway, after sitting in Parliament for two days my overall impression was that there were some very good candidates and that MPs did ask people a range of (sometimes hard) questions. Some interviews lasted more than an hour. There are just a few things that I want to point out that I thought were a problem. Firstly, although the conflict of interest question was certainly highlighted (which was a good thing) it was done in a rather uneven way. Many people were asked about their political affiliations and party political membership. For me the point is not what political party you vote for or are a member of (we all have political affiliations) but whether you are an office bearer in a political party. This distinction was not made clearly. In the ICASA legislation it specifically states that Councilors should not be office bearers in political parties to safeguard the independence of the institution. Also, the issue of people being in senior government positions was not properly explored. Again the question is that if we are trying to create a "public" (rather than a state broadcaster) there are possible conflicts of interest here. (It is interesting that MPs in the previous committee were concerned about Bheki Khumalo's position as spokesperson for Mineral and Energy Affairs but appeared less concerned about Khotso Khumalo's senior position in the Free State government. In fact Khotso himself raised this as an issue when he was an MP!) Also, it was sad that MPs did not correct certain inaccuracies in the statements made by interviewees. One candidate for instance spoke at length about the fact that the BBC got its funds directly from government. Now this is not the case - the BBC gets its funding from a license fee which begins to safeguard its independence from direct government and commercial interests and makes it more accountable to viewers and listeners. This issue of funding - and where it should be sourced - I think goes to the heart of independence and accountability issues and shouldn't have been left uncorrected. Finally, members of previous Boards were given a lot of airtime. Although they were certainly asked some hard questions I don't think they satisfactorily explained how they allowed the SABC to get into the financial mess that it did - nor did they seem to take any direct responsibility for the crisis. (I didn't stay for the whole of Desmond Golding's interview so maybe he did explain this once I had gone.)

Warm regards
Kate

Kate Skinner
Campaign Coordinator - Save our SABC
(082) 926-6404

14 September 2009

Industry Declaration from People 2 People Conference

Industry Declaration
from People 2 People Conference 2009
Presented on behalf of the industry by:

• Rehad Desai – People to People / TVIEC / SASFED
• Simon Wilkie – Southern African Representative – Southern Africa Communications for Development (SACOD) / Namibia Rep.
• Harriet Gavshorn – TVIEC / Independent Producers Organisation (IPO)
• Kate Skinner – Save our SABC: Reclaiming our Public Broadcaster Coordinator
• Marc Schwinges – SASFED / DFA
• Khalid Shamis – SASFED / TPA / DFA

Edited and contributed to by: Ingrid Gavshorn – DFA / SACOD and Eugene Paramoer on Saturday the 12 September 2009, Goethe-Institute, Parkwood, Johannesburg, and edited with further audience input.

We the producers and directors of public service programming have come together at the People to People Conference to make the following statement:

The conference has highlighted the number of threats that face the independent production sector as well as the opportunity to open channels of dialogue to call for the strengthening of public broadcasting programming and the support for a greater diversity of work – including documentary films.

There is tremendous instability in the broadcast sector, particularly public broadcasting which has been magnified by the recession. Filmmakers are being forced to leave the industry and this loss will reflect on the delivery and diversity of quality programmes in the future.

Public broadcasting has been weakened by the proliferation of private broadcasters. In South Africa, where most people are unable to pay for subscription programming, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor is still so substantial, the public broadcaster has to be made stronger, and has to be well funded. It has a critical role to play in the strengthening of our democracy and the representation of a diversity of voices and ideas.

Producers are required to be a critical part of the moral conscience of our country. Documentary filmmakers in particular are on the side of the poor and the marginalised and are the protectors of our democracy. They represent the diversity of our culture and our country. Yet they work under increasingly untenable conditions. Budgets have continued to decrease and we are now expected to produce quality work at the same cost per minute as 10 years ago. South African filmmakers make films at one fifth of the budget of their international counterparts.

ICASA as our broadcast regulator has failed to finalise a single compliance report on the public broadcaster, that amounting to seven years of absent, but legally required reports. Even available reports for private broadcasters, are seriously lacking, as they do not deal with all required regulations and use no accurate monitoring techniques.

As filmmakers we played a part in the creation of the public broadcaster and the independent regulator, but we believe we have not been vigilant enough to protect the institutions we helped to build. Filmmakers have allowed themselves to be marginalised. This must now change.
We therefore commit ourselves to:

• The call for government to back the financial plan submitted by the interim board of the SABC including the guarantee of commercial loans from the banks in order to ensure that local content is not decimated. This should be seen as a “bridging” solution until a new public finance model comes into place. As an industry we are fully committed to the position that the public contribution has to be increased.

• We appeal to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to ensure that the new SABC Board will be composed of people who are passionately committed to public broadcasting, broadly represent constituencies and are competent, professional and have sufficient experience to guide the organisation and to appoint a competent and accountable management.

• To hold ICASA to account for the dereliction of their duty in monitoring local content compliance and providing the leadership that public broadcasting needs.

• To call for government to more substantively fund the wholly under-funded National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) so that it can adequately fund the film industry. And in turn we call on the NFVF to review its funding priorities so that the proportion of its budget available to filmmaking is increased.

• We further call upon the NFVF to fund industry initiated and managed, specific research projects, into the industry itself (including scope, needs and affects of certain current realities), as well as into broadcasters: SABC, E-TV and M-Net (including a historical review of specific financial reports, needs, mandates and structural issues) and the broadcast regulator: ICASA (lack of monitoring of public broadcast environment, monitoring methodologies, historical review of changes as promulgated to the broadcast act).

• To call upon the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to invest in industry development by lowering their interest rates and their unjustifiably high demands for a return on their investment.

• To call upon the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to assist us in establishing a dedicated documentary fund so that South African filmmakers can make documentary films of an international standard. We also call on them to cash flow the rebates and to bring down the ceiling for documentary film investment from R2.5 million rand to R1 million rand. We also support the DTI’s intention to simplify their Export Market Incentive Assistance (EMIA) process and request support in helping local film makers in attending international markets so that they can market local content and attract co-production and development finance. Further, and most critically, we call on DTI to ensure that the legislation is changed so that filmmakers are allowed to own their own intellectual property so that they can market and sell their products to build a sustainable television and film industry.

• We are encouraged by the request by the Minister of Arts and Culture to meet the industry and we will urge her to follow international best practice as a champion of the local independent film and television industry.

• To call upon the Minister of Communications to streamline the divergent policy initiatives being pursued by his Ministry and Department and to substantially strengthen the Department of Communication’s policy unit. To call on the Minister not to rush the public broadcasting legislative process but rather to review the Broadcasting White Paper and then once the policy debates have been settled to release a comprehensive Bill and Act. We also call on him to re-establish a local content advisory council with representation from the independent film and television production sector.

• To support the flowering of community and street culture initiatives, and artistic movements and further encourage government support and involvement with industry to encourage this growth.

• Noting that this conference is an international conference, we seek to partner with filmmakers in the region who play an important role in addressing critical issues facing our societies, telling their stories and reaffirming the rights of marginalised communities. We thus commit ourselves to being actively involved in and working with Afriadoc organisers to further dialogue across Africa, and assist in the development of creative ideas, which may in turn be developed and produced for global and African audiences. We share a dream of equitable access to opportunity, and resources in a society free from prejudice and discrimination. Progress has been made, but we can’t help noting the glaring discrepancy between that dream and the reality we see. In many cases a new agenda seems to have replaced the ideals of our freedom struggles and the growing sense of discontent does not bode well for the future.

In conclusion we call on all government institutions and stakeholders to work together to co-ordinate and align their support for the film and television industry, to work together with the independent production sector to build a shared vision for the future of this industry.

Keynote Opening by Harriet Gavshon for People to People Conference

A Vision for Public Broadcasting
People to People Conference
September 2009



When I got this invitation to talk today, my heart sank. I thought “oh no – soon I am going to get into that category of people who are eligible for a life-time achievement award” . I have crossed over officially into that category of senior citizen - an industry elder. It feels like a milestone, not dissimilar to the milestone of when car guards stopped calling me Sisi and started calling me Mama.

I asked Rehad what qualified me to make this address today. Rehad told me that firstly I was qualified as a person who makes public broadcast television programmes and that secondly I should get over my self- esteem issues.

So that is where I am going to start. As a producer of public broadcast programmes. I am going to talk quite personally - and leave the theory for the academics among us. I am also going to try and put my issues of self esteem aside for the next half hour.

Thinking about it more sanely, I decided that if anything else - I am qualified to talk about public broadcasting because my career and involvement in television has mirrored the rise and fall of public broadcasting in South Africa - from the first tentative steps – through its halcyon days - to the sorry state we find ourselves in today.

Last month, I spoke at a National Film and Video Federation open day for people looking to start businesses in broadcasting. It was the week in which the SABC formally declared its financial deficit. It was really a terrible time to be advising anyone to have anything to do with broadcasting - let alone start a business. What I really wanted to say was “don’t”. Instead I said, I sincerely hope you are able to experience the opportunities that I have been given through having a public broadcaster. And that I hope the public broadcaster will recover one day so that you too can enjoy its enormous power and privilege.

Because there have been enormous benefits and enormous gains. It has created and sustained an industry; it has spawned a multitude of stories – and it has begun to allow us to deal with our history and our past.

It has been an imperfect beast – but somehow within it – at times, and certainly not consistently – we independent film makers have managed to squeeze into the lacunae between the contracts and the bureaucracy, the terrible budgets, the difficult terms of trade, the dissapointing appropriation of our intellectual property – and more recently through the financial and management chaos – to produce transcendent work; work that speaks and moves us as a society; work that has reached deep down into ourselves and reinterpreted it back.

I have had the opportunity to do extraordinary things and go to extraordinary places and to tell extraordinary stories, and in the process to work with some wonderful and dedicated professionals - and that indeed is an enormously privileged place to have spent ones working life – and for that, I am extremely grateful.

And now I am going to go back through the mists of time, to the beginning of this journey.

My first taste of the power of broadcasting was this.

In 1993 – before the general election of 1994 – and whilst the political future of the SABC was still being negotiated, we started making a series called Ordinary People. It was the first independently produced current affairs documentary series broadcast by the SABC and I would hazard to say – the last independently produced current affairs documentary series broadcast by the SABC.

We had achieved this honour by whining, cajoling, bullying, nagging and threatening the incumbent management at the time. (This era preceded any organized commissioning procedures in the organization which were introduced, for the record by the Education department of the SABC some years later)

In Ordinary People, which was a really wonderful news documentary format, we took an event, found three people who would intersect with the event from different perspectives or sides; an anc marcher, an ifp marcher and a peace monitor on the day of a big march, for example, and put a crew and camera on each person. We would then get three different narratives and points of view intersecting with the same event. Then we cut them together very quickly and had a film ready within two days.

It was a great format for the times. South Africans didn’t know each other at all and were extremely suspicious of each other But here we were - negotiating a new society – in which we were supposed to live together as equals.

Ordinary People – besides covering the very exciting and dramatic events of the time (we were the only crew to get the AWB driving their armoured truck into the world trade centre for example) was designed to introduce people to each other as human beings. People spoke in their mother tongue with subtitles – which I know is of course common place now, but it was the first time that this was done. And we played with shifting emotional perspectives and shifting points of view. People – no matter who they were or how heinous their politics were - were treated with dignity and respect, and we really tried to get under the surface and understand the people we filmed. My husband used to role his eyes and say – “thank god Hitler isn’t alive. You would come home from a shoot with him and say - “shame he has unresolved issues with his mother.”

But the actual moment I realized the enormous power of broadcasting was this. It was one of the small stories we did amongst the big set pieces – the big marches, the day with President Mandela, the AWB getting the freedom of Shweizer Reineke ….

It was an episode which we called The Tooth of the Times. South Africa in 1993 was in the midst of a terrible recession and we told the story of a farm auction. The farm had been in the family of an old white Afrikaans farmer for three generations. He basically had come to the end of the road, and on the day we were filming, the farm and all its contents was being auctioned off by a bank.

We followed the farmer, his childhood friend – a farmworker (who’s future was very insecure) and the auctioneer - all through this harrowing day as the farm, the tractors, the animals and the furniture all got auctioned off and driven away.

And at the end of the day, as the sun was going down, and the last of the cattle were herded to neighbouring farms over the hills, the white farmer looked at us through his tears and said – and this is where the title of the piece The Tooth of the Times comes from:

“Dit is hoe die tyd is
Die tand van die tyd, hy byt hard, hy byt seer, hy byt kwaai”

(this is how the times are, the tooth of the times - it bites hard, it bites sore, it bites fierce.)

It was a small personal tragedy couched in the language of Shakespeare. His story was particularly powerful because this was a man who through his whole life and through the privilege his skin colour had given him, had enormous power, but was now losing everything. It was gutting and of course, as a result, fantastic television.

The day after it was broadcast (we shot and edited and broadcast in the same week) I was in Sebokeng in the Vaal planning the next weeks story. Sebokeng – at the time, was experiencing terrible drive-by shootings which we knew were being executed by a third force. On a fairly regular basis, but without warning, mysterious people would come in cars in the dead of the night and shoot up houses, church halls or political meetings. Our plan was to spend a night in Sebokeng with a self defence unit, the police, and a scared woman and her children in a house in an area which was particularly vulnerable.

We were driving through Sebokeng with the head of one of the SDU’s – a returned MK soldier who has spent many years in combat – and had just come home.

On the journey he said –” I saw last nights programme. Poor farmer man.”

My heart swelled. It can work I thought. Television can be this thing; this unifying and humanizing force which allows one person into another’s world and allows them to share a common humanity. It doesn’t matter that this “farmer” was probably the kind of chap who sent this man into exile in the first place, or that they would have absolutely divergent views. But somewhere somehow, television can and does make a true and deep connection between people from different worlds.

I don’t think since those early days of Ordinary People that I have ever had the same sense of privilege or purpose or, might I say – power.

This programme was made in 1993; before public broadcasting as we know it.

The SABC was a central and crucial site of struggle in the early nineties because everyone was concerned that there should be water tight charters and protocols in place before the first general election , so that the coverage would be free and fair.

It left a small gap for people like ourselves who had cut our teeth in foreign broadcasting to squeeze in and have a weekly current affairs show. By 1996 it was all over. News and current affairs had been centralized and between the bureaucrats, the technocrats, the ideologues and the politicians, political comment was firmly in its place and its place was certainly not in the hands of independent film makers. And that has pretty much been where it has stayed ever since.

The battle for the soul of the SABC begun in 1990. And I think it is important for you not so senior citizens to know that the struggle for public broadcasting was spearheaded by an organization of independent film producers called FAWO – (the Film and Allied Workers Organization) which went on to become the IPO – and then split into TPA and the IPO.

I read back over the history of public broadcasting last week in preparation for this address, and I had to shake myself because I had forgotten so much. Although there were organizations like the Campaign for Open Media and later the Campaign for Independent Broadcasting together with political parties which got involved in the early nineties to force the transformation of the then state broadcaster to a public broadcaster, film makers – some of whom sit in this room today – were absolutely at the centre of this struggle. It was FAWO who organised a march of thousands of people onto the SABC in August 1990 under the banner of the Campaign for Open Media; It was FAWO who held a picket outside the CODESA talks the next year to try and speed up the process of appointing an independent broadcasting authority; FAWO established a broadcasting commission which was central in charting both strategic policy and legislation for a future public broadcaster and an independent regulator ; and FAWO advised the ANC on many matters of broadcasting policy.

And you know - we won enormous victories. We won the fight for an independent regulator who would regulate broadcasting in the public interest. With that came local content quotas - for both the music industry and the television industry - which our industries depend on. We won the battle which changed the state broadcaster to a public broadcaster with a board with a mandate to demonstrate its ability to act independently of the government of the day and of party political interests. The SABC therefore, as a result of our (and other organisation’s passionate efforts) was the first state institution to undergo transformation through the negotiations at CODESA.

In other words, we, as film makers were there in the barricades at the beginning of it all, and it is fitting that we as film makers should be fighting now for a new beginning.

But sadly, this is not a feature film. The story didn’t end there, or else we wouldn’t be here today. Its more like a long running soap opera with complex story arcs, reversals and an ever changing cast of protagonists and antagonists, prima donnas, diva’s and extras.

As I was reading about all the changes in legislation, the amendments to the Broadcasting Act, the changes to the IBA act – which brought ICASA - a much less independent body into being and all the pretty continuous attempts to increase control of the public broadcaster, and to remove its independence, I became dismayed. I kept on thinking “where was I then?” When I read about the changes in the wording from “broadcasting in the public interest to broadcasting in the national and public interest” I thought -”gosh– but where was I then? “ When I read about the corporatisation of the SABC and the changes to its funding model, I wondered why I hadn’t said anything.

And I came to this conclusion; Between 1994 and today, we film makers have done almost nothing to protect the privileged and precious space we fought for and won in the beginning of our democracy.

We just dropped the ball. There were many people who didn’t; this battle for an independent broadcaster has been fought by many organisations - FXI, SANEF, Opposition parties - even the SABC itself - but not by the film makers. Yes, of course, our organizations have done sterling work in responding to position papers, in trying to engage the SABC, in meeting with Parliament or ICASA. But actually – it is only once the SABC finally collapsed that somehow we were galvanized enough with enough urgency and focus to climb in and to force ourselves to be heard.

And although there are all sorts of reasons for our quiet diplomacy, or very muted murmerings , such as the collapse of civil society first out of a sense of joy during Mandela’s presidency and then out of a sense of fear and marginalization during Mbeki’s presidency - the fact of it – is that we were so wrapped up in our work, our films, our companies, our need to get ahead, in our fear of rocking the boat or biting the hand that feeds us , or being felt to be ungrateful....and we were so divided by race and class and treating each other as competitors, that we allowed this to happen.

And I say this more to myself than to anyone else here – because there are people here who have worked extremely hard these last ten years to keep organizations alive. But hey were a small minority of people and not the entire industry. And to fight such a big battle – a battle to make sure our state institutions don’t fail us as they have – takes an industry – and not a group of individuals.

It takes an industry to say – “this is the public broadcaster” and that means it belongs to the people of South Africa – it belongs to us – and we will have a say in how it is constituted or run. We cannot stand by and watch this dream being eroded like it has. And more than that – we cannot allow anyone to make us feel that we have no right to determine the policy and practices of our public broadcaster.

Because – if this current crisis has taught us anything, it should teach us – that our craft as film makers – our ability to make strange and beautiful and wonderful work – is inextricably tied to the political and policy outcomes which govern the public broadcaster –

1. the fact that we cannot produce a weekly current affairs programme – like Ordinary People as an independent producer - is part of a political and social shift in government - and governments relationship with the public broadcaster
2. the fact that the budgets we have to work with are less than the budget we had when I made Ordinary People 16 years ago – is because of policy shifts which meant that the SABC would not receive government funding but would run as a self-sustaining corporation which was laid out in the 1999 Broadcasting Act
3. the fact that we have less rights to the work we produce than we did in 1993 – has its root in the same corporatisation of 1999
4. or the fact that in 1993 we could talk to one audience – which consisted of both the white farmer and the MK cadre – whereas now – we have a situation where the channels are so atomized and divided into language, age groups and class that our children if they are black or white, english or Afrikaans – cannot consume the same media – which means they might as well be living in different countries – is a result of political and policy decisions taken over the last ten years.

There is a total convergence of policy and polity and practice – and whilst we have grumbled and moaned about the SABC for the last 15 years – and not fought it at the site where policy was determined – and not forced our voices to be heard leaves us having to start the battle anew.

History was written for us these last ten years – and if we don’t speak out now – in a clear and organized and assertive way – with the confidence that we have every right to determine the direction of our public broadcaster – because it is our broadcaster - it will be written for us again.

And as we begin our deliberations at this very important People to People conference – remember that documentary films are the biggest casualty not only in this present crisis – but in the gradual erosion of the dream of public broadcasting – And as we focus on issues of funding and budgets and challenges and fears– let us remember that it was film makers like ourselves who set the public broadcaster on its course – and it can be film makers like ourselves who can set it on a new course once again. It is an enormous opportunity.

And lastly - I need to finally address the quite lofty topic I was given to talk about today - A Vision for Public Broadcasting.

What is my vision? Well the best definition I know of public broadcasting is also the shortest.

Public Broadcasting is making programmes for citizens - and not consumers.

It is a vision, I think, we should fight for, once again.