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26 April 2011

SASFED / IPO on SABC'S TurnaroundStrategy

Wed, 20 Apr 2011 11:31

To coincide with crisis-stricken public service broadcaster SABC’s presentation of its turnaround strategy to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications on 20 April, the South African Screen Federation (SASFED) and the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) have released the following joint statement expressing their concerns.

We are concerned that the SABC’s turnaround strategy appears to be going ahead without meaningful consultation with the production industry. This despite a stated commitment from the SABC in January to follow through with substantive engagement with the independent production sector in advance of the SABC presenting to the Portfolio Committee.

The IPO, SASFED and the TV Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC) have for the past year tabled a range of ideas about the turnaround of the SABC. These ideas are designed to ensure that the public broadcast continues to stay in the forefront of the production of quality and innovative content. This is important in two respects. Firstly, it is important to the independent production sector which has been decimated by the financial collapse of the public broadcaster, and secondly in supporting the sustainability of the public broadcaster and maintaining its central role in the lives and development of our society.

The ideas that have been tabled include making use of the Department of Trade and Industry production rebates: encouraging conditions for co-production and co-financing of local content; revisiting the intellectual property regime to incentivise the production sector to maintain quality in the face of smaller budgets; reviewing the terms of trade that the production sector operates under to eliminate the huge cost and bureaucracy involved in micro-management of the sector and freeing up producers to distribute their own content so that the SABC can benefit from sales revenue.

In addition, the independent production sector is the custodian of decades of insight into the operations and mechanics of the public broadcaster. They have offered their skills and support in the turnaround process on a number of occasions. Despite this the management and board of the SABC has paid lip service to the sector. As a key stakeholder, we are looking for a much deeper engagement.

The independent production sector employs in excess of 300,000 people, many of whom are dependent on a vibrant public broadcaster.

We are deeply concerned that in the process whereby a financial turnaround is being planned, the central importance of content, and particularly local content – which is ultimately the broadcaster’s key mandate – receives the due respect and diligence that it requires. This is within the framework of a clear and committed vision for public broadcasting, growth conducive policies, and effective and efficient operational processes. A bakery does not stop producing bread to save money; the broadcaster has to consider how to continue to produce excellent programming too.

We believe government, parliament and the South African public must be well appraised of the requirements for a meaningful and successful turnaround of the SABC, which includes policies and operational matters that related to the independent production sector, a key stakeholder and partner in public broadcasting.

Here is a summary of the many proposals and issues raised by the independent sector and we once again appeal to the SABC to engage in a meaningful honest way with content creators.

The meaningful and sustained turnaround of the SABC cannot be mechanically based on its bottom line driven by cost cutting measures - which historically has seen production budgets, already stagnant for at least the last five years, as a foremost casualty. It is little appreciated that the independent production sector significantly subsidises SABC production, with no Intellectual Property or other form of return.

Read further here.

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