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.

11 February 2010

Shooting People Partners With Babelgum to Present a Curated Content Channel Online and via Mobile

World's Largest Network of Independent Filmmakers to Collaborate on Third Edition of Babelgum Online Film Festival

Shooters,

We're excited to announce today a new strategic partnership with Babelgum, the world's premier integrated web and mobile video content platform. We feel that the arrangement is going to be of enormous benefit to Shooters, and give a real filip to short form independent film. You can read the press release below. If you've any questions, please drop us a line.

All the best,

James Mullighan Creative Director, Shooting People

London / New York (11 February, 2010) Shooting People and Babelgum announced a far-reaching strategic relationship today on the opening day of the 60th Berlinale, in Berlin, Germany. The partnership brings a Shooting People curated selection of shorts - Fiction, Animations, Documentary, Music Video and Artists' Film - to a global audience via Babelgum's online platform and its free application for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, and Google's Android devices.

Babelgum has already distributed work by Shooting People members and patrons, including Rupert Murray (Unknown White Male, The End of the Line) and Sally Potter (Orlando, Rage). The partnership includes a new Shooting People TV Branded Channel hosted by Babelgum, and has the two organisations working closely on the launch of the 3rd edition of the Babelgum Online Film Festival.

The strategic multi-year relationship between the world's largest network of independent filmmakers and the world's premier integrated web and mobile video content platform creates an initiative with the power to do more for getting independent short film seen and exhibited globally than ever before.

"Shooting People has long admired the determined and fruitful efforts Babelgum has made in promoting the work of independent filmmakers", said James Mullighan, Creative Director, Shooting People.

"The Branded Channel for our members on Babelgum will go a long way indeed to promoting the careers of some of Britain's and America's best artists. And Babelgum's Online Film Festival is simply the best out there - we are relishing the prospect of working closely with the team on taking it to the next level, making it an online initiative of truly international interest".

Karol Martesko-Fenster, SVP & General Manager of Babelgum's Film Division stated, "We are thrilled to be working with the good folks at Shooting People. There is no group of independent filmmakers like Shooting People, and we're looking forward to hosting their members' films on our platform. We look forward to working closely with Jess Search, James Mullighan and the entire international Shooting People staff to launch the 3rd edition of the Babelgum Online Film Festival"

Courtesy of Shooting People

Posted by Pascal Schmitz

09 February 2010

Copyright: a mind-field - story courtesy of Gauteng Film Commission


The International Copyright Balance and Documentary Film Project of America University, together with South African film industry organisations, including the Documentary Filmmakers Association (DFA), Women of the Sun (WoS) and Black Filmmakers Network (BFN), released a groundbreaking report on copyright clearance obligations for South African documentary filmmakers at the end of 2009.

Filmmaker and board member of the DFA, Marc Schwinges, explains that the report essentially summarises research conducted with 41 South African filmmakers by the DFA and BFN in late 2008 and 2009.

"This research is about filmmakers' perceptions and practices in South African copyright law. These views were then analysed, with a draft version of the report, at an industry forum hosted in March 2009 in Cape Town by American academic legal experts from the American University. We also met up in December 2009 to finalise the report."

He elaborates that the report also includes South African legal and constitutional viewpoints. "A legal review was commissioned and this was also included in the report, along with the filmmakers' views.

The report is now a blueprint in defining what is 'Fair Practice' with regard to our industry. 'Fair Practice' includes such rights as 'Fair Quotation', 'Incidental capture of artistic works' etc. The ultimate aim is to publish a 'Best Practice Document', which examines what documentary filmmakers consider fair use and reasonable interpretations of various 'User Rights' in the South African Copyright Act. Additionally it also aims to look at how South African copyright law may be reviewed in the future."

Some of the major issues that arose with regards to the report revolved around what constitutes filmmakers' rights when it comes to using copyrighted material.
Marc Schwinges, board member of the DFA

"Filmmakers struggle to comprehend what 'User Rights' are, how to implement 'Fair Practice' and what the legal repercussions are of not following a best practice guideline. We hope that the report will go some way in clarifying these issues," says Schwinges, adding that they hope the report may in future influence South African copyright law.

"However it is too early to comment on possible changes to the South African Copyright law, but ultimately the report does allow us to analyse further and possibly in time, to make some suggestions that may influence the law. The existing 'User Rights' however can only be effectively utilised within an industry accepted and widely published 'Best Practice' document, the 'Gatekeeper' (broadcasters, distributors etc) would also need to accept this 'Best Practice'. However the 'Best Practice' document is still a work in progress and is not complete."

He explains that the DFA, WoS and BFN have all pledged to take the process forward. "We are attempting to secure funding to draft a complete industry 'Best Practice Document'. Once a draft of this document is complete - hopefully in a year if funding is sourced - than a broader industry review process will again be conducted. A task team is currently being finalised to take this process forward."

Schwinges concludes: "Once we have a 'Best Practice Document for Documentary User Rights in Copyright for South Africa', we will need to test it. Once it has been tested, and the 'Gatekeepers' have accepted it as a reasonable alternative to clearing all material, then we may look towards the standards that exist worldwide between all 'Best Practice Documents' so that a film can enjoy global exposure."

To view story on gfc site click here.

08 February 2010

Broadcast boss (Solly Mokoetle: The SABC's new CEO) vows to stick to plan – story courtesy of Times Live.


By Chris Barron

If time management is an indicator of executive competence (and it usually is) then do not expect much from the SABC's new group CEO Solly Mokoetle.

After a number of carefully scheduled appointments to interview him (at the behest of the SABC itself) were put on hold because he was doing something else, one is left with the impression that his skills in this department suck.

Either this is because after just one month in the job it is already more than he can cope with, or because he has been infected with the SABC's traditional contempt for those outside its hallowed halls.

When Mokoetle finally does talk to me he complains that I have hauled him away from a meeting with his board.

Strictly speaking, "his" board was the interim, ANC-loaded, board that appointed him and not the current board, which, like it or not, will have to deal with him.

Nameless members of the board were reportedly, and not unsurprisingly, unhappy about having a CEO foisted on them, and one imagines this may make for an uneasy relationship.

"Not at all, not at all," he says. "I think that matter has been put to bed. None of the current board has indicated that they have any problems with my leadership."

Not according to some reports, I venture. "You're flogging a dead horse," he says crossly.

Mokoetle, of course, is not new to the SABC. He was chief operating officer from 2001 to the end of 2006. Opinion is divided about his part in the shambles there, with some, not least Mokoetle himself, pointing out that when he left the corporation it was making a profit of more than R500-million.

However, a forensic investigation fingered him for complicity in "collusive tendering", which saw contracts worth R56-million being awarded to companies with links to senior SABC executives.
Mokoetle says he had nothing to do with it, but the fact is that he was in charge of the commissioning department that made these payments, so at the very least there are questions about whether he can be relied on to know what is going on under his nose.

The so-called Gobodo Report has never been made public, but after it was shown to the board Mokoetle left. Reports said he was escorted from the building by security guards, a suggestion he finds "very laughable".

He left because his contract expired, he says. The board asked him to extend it by two years, and why would it do this if there was any substance to the allegations made in the report?

He agreed to stay on to help the new, and wholly inexperienced, CEO Dali Mpofu find his feet, but then left after a year.

Why?

"I wanted a breath of fresh air outside the SABC."

Mokoetle, 54, left South Africa in 1977. He worked for Radio Freedom, which was to the ANC what the SABC was to the Nats, namely a propaganda machine.

From Radio Freedom he went to Canada, where he obtained a masters degree in journalism and worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation until returning to South Africa in 1994 and joining the SABC.

What, I ask, makes him think he is the right man to pull the corporation out of the hideous financial mire Mpofu left it in?

He laughs: "What makes ME think so? I didn't appoint myself."

But he did put his name forward presumably?

"Yes. Because I believe I have the experience the SABC requires."

So, of course, does Irene Charnley, the chairwoman of the interim board. And even those who question the wisdom of his being appointed by the interim board rather than the current board have enough respect for Charnley to give her choice the benefit of the doubt.

Mokoetle says he will stick closely to the turnaround plan given him by Charnley's interim board, which projects the corporation breaking even within two years, and being profitable within three.

He will cut costs in programming, remuneration and travel. He admits what we now all know, that in the past millions of rands were wasted buying content that was never used. This practice will cease. Nothing will be bought without careful analysis of needs, demands and scheduling capacity.
Will he be retrenching?

"Not necessarily. The recommendation from the interim board is to right-size the organisation, and there are different ways of right-sizing."

The other area ripe for cost-cutting is remuneration. Too many employees are being paid too much. He will not give a clear answer as to whether salaries will be cut or not.

He points out that foreign programmes are 10 to 15 times more expensive than local. He will not admit it, but clearly we are going to be seeing even more cheap overseas rubbish than we already are.

As for travel, there will be no more first class for executives, he says. Unless they are flying overseas, when it will be business class as usual.

Does he support the minister's proposal of a 1% levy on taxpayers to fund the SABC? Will he engage with the minister at all?

"The minister is the shareholder and critical stakeholder of the SABC. As a state-owned entity, the SABC accounts to parliament and to the government through the minister. It is inevitable that I will have to deal with the minister."

He gives an uneasy laugh. "Look, this is what has been put across by the shareholder."

If he can turn it around without the extra tax why the need for it?

"I'm not sure the need for the tax was to meet the current financial challenges. I think the objective is for the long-term funding model of the SABC."

What about concerns that this will make the SABC even more beholden to the government?

"At least 80% of funding is from advertising revenue and I don't think anyone has suggested the SABC is a lapdog of advertisers. Are we controlled by the advertisers because they give us 80% of our funding? I don't think it is as simplistic as that."

On the subject of lapdogs Mokoetle reportedly once said on radio that he would be answerable to the minister before the board.

He rubbishes this. "I was appointed by the board and until further notice I will be answerable to the board."

Which is an interesting answer because the only person with whom the minister should engage is the chairman of the board. Not the editor-in-chief, which, as group CEO, is also Mokoetle's role.

After all, how many investigative pieces on government contracts allegedly won by the minister's security company is he likely to run if he knows he will be dealing with the minister very soon afterwards?

To view the story on Times Live click here.

Cape Winelands Fim Festival Feedback

Thankyou to the DFA members who responded to the call for the CAPE WINELANDS FESTIVAL to be held in March. Good news is that five films from DFA members have been selected for the programme. CONGO MY FOOT- Miki Redelinghuys/Kyle O' Donoghue/Okepne Ojang- SEA POINT DAYS- Francois Verster- TRIPPING DOWN LONG STREET -Terry Westby-Nunn , RECOLLECTIONS OF NEW YEAR -Lisba Vosloo and BIOSCOPE-Miki Redelinghuys/Roger van Wyk.
The DFA will also be hosting a Master Class during the CAPE WINELANDS FESTIVAL: Details to follow

Posted by Pascal Schmitz

07 February 2010

Sentech loss could be R214m

Published in: Business Report
February 1, 2010
By Thabiso Mochiko

WITH the imminent sacking of the chief executive and the entire board of Sentech, it has emerged that the struggling signal distributor is budgeting for a net loss of R123 million for the 2009/10 financial year as a result of discontinued operations such as MyWireless.

This is according to a scathing report compiled by the task team Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda appointed last year to investigate turnaround strategies for ailing state-owned broadcast entities Sentech and the SABC.

Sentech's loss could increase to R214m if losses of R91m by broadband services MyWireless, BizNet and Vsat are included. This amount was not disclosed to the Department of Communications by Sentech in its corporate plan.

Sentech is discontinuing its failed broadband services.

Sentech reported a net loss of R24m for the 2008/09 financial year, compared with a budgeted loss of R59.1m.

According to the report by the task team, not everybody on Sentech's management had signed the exit strategy for MyWireless, creating doubt that the decision carried every director's approval.

The task team is recommending that the entire board of Sentech, including chief executive Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane, be fired.

Sources said the board would be fired this week.

The task team found that the chief executive failed to create the correct environment to monitor performance and compliance. The report also found a "lack of adequate leadership and oversight" at the parastatal.

There was also a failure to promote ethical behaviour, because Mokone-Matabane demonstrated favouritism to company secretary Rachel Ramokhofi, the report states.

Ramokhofi was appointed as general manager, a move that angered employees.

"All the staff that we interviewed and documents that we reviewed indicate that the chief executive has delegated all her duties to the general manager. The general manager is effectively running Sentech," the report states.

"Staff morale is very low because the company secretary is bulldozing everybody."

A source said Sentech chairman Colin Hickling met with Nyanda on Monday last week and was asked for his and the board's resignation. Hickling confirmed the meeting but refused to elaborate further.

Mokone-Matabane has already indicated that she would not renew her contract, which expires in September.

The task team stated that Sentech's financial performance had been negative over the past two years, yet the board had approved salary increases for executives.

"The executives have been rewarded for poor performance. This poor performance has also been supported by the board. They attribute all the problems to a lack of funding, yet the money is being wasted on irregular expenditures."

Team's damning findings include:

Sentech appointed eight suppliers that were paid a total of R13.6 million without following correct procurement processes.

The auditors reported wasteful and irregular expenditure relating to the interest on a finance lease of R8.2m on the basis that Treasury approval was not obtained. The management's response was that expert advice had been obtained, which said such approval was not required.

The absence of a formal process flow linking the billing, legal and sales and marketing departments resulted in clients not being billed for services they received. At the time of the audit the unbilled services were worth R30.8m.

Six tubes valued at R2m were stolen at the Meyerton site due to poor security. Security cameras were purchased for the site but not installed.

The chief executive and two board members, including the chairman, took a trip to Sweden in 2008 at a cost of R1.2m. The task team was not provided with a business plan for the trip.

The board approved bodyguard services for the chief executive, although a signed contract could not be provided. A bodyguard was employed full time, and cost R262 126 a year.

A service provider was paid R945 844 for services not rendered and was not appointed through the proper procurement processes.

STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS ON THE REPORT OF THE MINISTERIAL TASK TEAM ON SENTECH AND SABC


4 February 2010

TASK TEAM MEMBERS:

Themba Langa (Chairperson)
Julia Hope
Mike Makhura
Mochele Noge
Quaraysh Patel
Thandi Rmathesele
Jonathan Cawood
Jason Minnaar
Gift Buthelezi
Patrick Craven
Two officials from National Treasury

The Minister of Communications, General (Ret) Siphiwe Nyanda has received the final report of the Ministerial Task Team that was appointed in June 2009 to look into the affairs of state-owned signal distributor SENTECH and the public broadcaster, the SABC.

The report made several findings and recommendations with regard to the viability relevance, impact and sustainability of the two entities.

SABC

Leadership:

The Task Team found that there was a gap between the board of directors and management and advised on the need for a close working relationship between the two.
The Task team found that there was a lack of collective management and decision making to an extent that key decisions were centralised to few individuals.
Senior positions are currently held by people who are nearing their retirement age and the Task Team advised the Minister that the SABC’s recruitment strategy should focus on developing and grooming young talent to prepare them for leadership positions.


Governance:

Task Team found that the relationship between the Public Broadcaster and the shareholder was a reactive one instead of proactive. (A shareholder compact agreement that will address this issue has since been concluded and signed by both parties.)
Due process in several instances was not adhered to when concluding agreements with service providers.
Certain key business operations that required central monitoring and management, including some aspects of procurement were found to be decentralised. Such an arrangement presented challenges so far as coordination of operations and decision making is concerned.

Business:
The Task team found that there was no correlation between the SABC’s business plan and its mandate as a public broadcaster.
The team also found that the business model of the SABC is not sustainable and it’s disintegrated.



Finance:

The Task Team found that the SABC was not observing and/or utilising financial systems put in place.
The Team also found that the public broadcaster was heavily reliant on the office of the CFO.
No monthly financial reports were submitted from heads of divisions.
Several developments have since taken place at the SABC since the Task Team started its work. These include the appointment of a new Board of Directors and a Group CEO, development and signing of the Shareholder Compact and National Treasury approval of the Guarantee. The Task Team provided indirect assistance to the Interim Board including and also during the Auditor General’ investigation process. The outcome of this process has led to action being taken against some employees of the corporation. The Ministry of Communications is adamant that these changes will soon yield results particularly as it relates to the successful implementation of the corporation’s turn-around strategy.

SENTECH

The Task Team’s principal finding on Sentech is that the signal distributor is in urgent need of a turnaround strategy.

In an extensive 93-page report, the Task Team urges drastic and immediate action if Sentech is to avoid lapsing into terminal decline.

The Task Team found that the organisation’s current situation was caused by several factors, prime among them being:
A new legal and regulatory regime that has opened the market for new entrants;
The absence of a clear and comprehensive ICT industry framework;
A misaligned business strategy in support of the national service delivery agenda;
The state of the markets it serves;
Declining profits; and
The demands of a digital environment which will further erode its profitability.
Highlighting the competitive threat, the report indicates that changes in legislation brought about by the Electronic Communications Act, have seen the entry of more than 300 new competitors. Previously Sentech enjoyed a monopoly in the broadcast distribution space.

The Task Team also found that the definition of Sentech’s role lies at the heart of its problems along with the strategies it has pursued and its failure to break into the telecommunications market. The migration to less expensive digital channels is an added challenge to Sentech. The Task Team emphasises that Sentech is in a financially thorny position because of the unprofitable products in its telecommunications suite. It is of the view that these products affect the profits made from regulated and unregulated signal distribution.

The SABC is the single-most significant revenue-generating client to Sentech as a whole. Sentech derives as much as 75% of its revenue from the SABC.

The exposure is such that should the SABC be in a position to self-provide, Sentech’s revenue generation will be adversely affected.


The Team maintains that Sentech’s degeneration into its current loss-making situation began with the awarding of telecommunications licences and the organisation’s attempt to launch its telecommunications services without adequate funding, robust business plans and well thought-out strategies.
In an endeavour to come find solutions, the Team considered four strategic options:

The first is to reposition Sentech in terms of its core competence as a broadcasting signal distributor.
Option two is for Sentech to leverage its core competence to look for opportunities on the continent, where it is already doing business.
The third option is for Sentech to continue with its diversification strategy of growing the telecommunications business -- a move that would require it to leverage from strategic partnerships with other seasoned players. It would need to revisit and rejuvenate its reputation to attract potential suitors.
The fourth option is for Sentech to transfer its non-broadcasting ECNS and non-broadcasting ECS businesses to Infosat.
The Team makes several strategic recommendations, among them:

Exploitation of Sentech’s unused or underutilised licences through private-public partnerships;
Exploitation of the potential African market by selling its core competence in broadcasting signal distribution;
Clarity needed regarding Sentech’s funding going forward;
Sentech should remain responsible for encoding and multiplexing;
Sentech should lobby government to develop legislation to guarantee its position as the preferred supplier of broadcast signal distribution to the SABC;
Sentech should discontinue all loss-making products and ventures;
Government should “dispel role ambiguity” by distinguishing between Sentech’s mandate and those of other SOEs. “Co-operation rather than competition will contribute towards efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the use of limited government resources;
Government should urgently address Sentech’s DTT infrastructure shortfall;
Leadership and governance needs to be strengthened;
Sentech must develop a talent management strategy;
Sentech must dynamically combine its core competence with a diversified product offering;
Staff and executives with competencies in broadcast signal distribution need to be recruited, developed and retained; and
Stabilisation support to finance the winding down of Sentech’s non-profitable products is “desperately” needed

The Task Team considers that in its current state, Sentech is “rudderless, inadequately funded and misdirected”; that its status quo renders it an unsustainable business.

I am fully satisfied with the findings of the Task Team, the members of which I thank for their time, effort and insight into what is a highly complex issue. The Team has clearly come to grips with what is required to render the SABC and Sentech economically viable entities. I also wish to express special thanks to the Minister of Finance for availing two of his senior staff members to work with the Task team. My Ministry will look at the Team’s findings and recommendations with a view of effecting changes where necessary and feasible in the shortest possible timeframe.

Ends.