December 5, 2018

SOS Coalition and MMA: “SABC Faces Worst Crisis in Democratic History”


SASFED (South African Screen Federation) is the national federation of independent film, television and audiovisual content industry organisations in South Africa. SASFED represents a broad spectrum of industry players, via affiliates representing several thousand individual members and hundreds of member companies employing up to a hundred staff.  SASFED as such represents an industry which has been severely damaged by the ongoing financial crisis at the SABC and will continue to be further damaged if the SABC is left to literally dwindle into the abyss.

SASFED is convinced that the SABC can be a viable independent public broadcaster with an independent board and a good management team. However, none of this is possible without the SABC being able to access a loan to dig itself out of the present crisis. Besides their concern for workers at the SABC, SASFED is deeply concerned about the industry – they have already cut staff, lost companies and some have still not been paid revenues owed to them by the public broadcaster. It is clear to the entire media eco-system that the present crisis needs first to be averted before serious work can be put into turning the institution around.

SASFED would like to make a call to all the present stakeholders to avert the crisis – to stop the tide of resignations, the impasse, the infighting and re-enter into a working relationship to save the national broadcaster.

It is with dire concern for the industry that SASFED align themselves with the following statements released by SOS Coalition and the Media Monitoring Africa.

SASFED calls on all stakeholders to come back to the table to immediately avert the collapse and support the SABC to rebuild this institution that is in the public interest.

Herewith the statements by the SOS Coalition and Media Matters Africa:

The SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa are of the view that today marks the worst crisis faced by the SABC in its democratic history. Cool heads from everyone involved must prevail.

SOS Coalition pleads with all role-players urgently to do the following:
To the directors of the SABC who have allegedly resigned in the past 48 hours, please retract your resignations with immediate effect.

To the President of the Country, if any resignations land on your desk please reject them with a firm appeal to the interests of the nation, calling upon such directors to Thuma Mina for #CountryDuty to the SABC Board.

To the Minister of Communications, whose recent elevation was widely and warmly greeted, please reverse your position of non-engagement, and recommit to a structured, procedural and constructive engagement to save the SABC, while respecting the High Court ruling on non-Executive interference in Board matters.

To Parliament, we need oversight that recognises the enormous financial and administrative chaos that the current board and management were faced with upon assuming office and that works towards solutions both immediate and long-term that preserve the essential role of public service broadcasting in our democracy.

To the Unions, please remember that the institutional survival of the SABC is far bigger than all of us. If the SABC collapses, there will be no jobs for anyone. We need careful joint negotiations between all stakeholders.

To the Independent Producers, do not refuse to deliver your episodes of Uzalo, Muvhango, Generations and Isidingo, resulting in black screens during prime time. Exercise as much patience and forbearance as possible in the face of payment delays in this time of
crisis.

There are three urgent priorities which, if they do not happen by Friday 7 December 2018 or very soon thereafter, will, in all probability, result in the collapse of the SABC Board, which is likely to set off a rash of SABC executive resignations, which will in turn likely result in the immediate liquidation of the SABC.

First – the Board cannot be allowed to become inquorate and unable to operate: It needs stability, not another interim/final Board circus – which would be the fourth in just over a decade.

Second – the National Treasury, together with the President must immediately provide the SABC with a government guarantee – which we stress is not a bailout, it is a guarantee, giving the SABC’s lenders and creditors a measure of comfort that the Board and management has political support.

Third – given the tension and uncertainty that this has raised, we call on the SABC Board to withdraw the section 189 Notice with immediate effect. The withdrawal does not have to be indefinite. But we recognise that temperatures are such across the political spectrum that this is not serving the public interest at this time.

The political order, in the national interest, that must come across clearly, to all stakeholders, is “STAND DOWN”.

About The SOS Coalition
The SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS) is a civil society coalition that advocates for the presence of robust public broadcasting in the public interest to deepen our constitutional democracy. The coalition represents trade unions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community media, independent film and TV production sector organisations; academics, freedom of expression activists and concerned individuals.

MMA is Media Monitoring Africa is an NGO that has been monitoring the media since 1993. MMA aims to promote the development of a free, fair, ethical and critical media culture in South Africa and the rest of the continent. The three key areas that MMA seeks to address through a human rights-based approach are, media ethics, media quality and media freedom.

For further information, please contact:
Duduetsang (National Coordinator, SOS Coalition)
duduetsang@soscoalition.org.za
+2760 911 5889
OR
Thandi Smith (Head of Policy, MMA)
thandis@mma.org.za
+2773 470 7306