Last week the SABC Board presented its Annual Report to Parliament. While the broadcaster waxed lyrical about the results its yet to be seen turnaround strategy were yielding in keeping itself profitable, a deeper look into the report reveals that profitable or not, the SABC is still stuck in the quagmire.
An independent audit of the SABC’s books returned qualified, with reference to an abject failure to comply with provisions of the Public Finance Management Act as well as lacking and/or inadequate internal asset, financial and risk management systems and practice.
Further in the report is revealed an abject failure to meet many of the conditions set out by Treasury in the R1,47bn lifeline it threw the broadcaster when it agreed to guarantee the commercial loan it secured from Nedbank. Of the 66 key deliverables for the 2011/12 financial year, the SABC reports to have only managed to achieve 20. And it is particularly television that is struggling.
After kicking up a fuss following Media Monitoring Africa’s damning August report on whether the broadcaster was meeting its licensing and language requirements, the SABC self-reports this very failure to meet its ICASA Mandate, though it doesn’t go into much detail as to where and why.
Contrary to the explicit government condition that the wage bill be shrunk through a reduction of the headcount by over 600, the wage bill has, instead,risen by 6.24% with a headcount reduction of about 2% of the targeted 640 through natural attrition and non-renewal of contracts.
So where, exactly did the SABC make the savings that led to its “laudable” profit? By making significant cuts to spending on its core business: programming.
The annual report reveals that programming was slashed by R226m. That’s 65.8% of the broadcaster’s reported “profits.” Added to this is a lack of real clarity on whether what was left of that budget was directed towards programme, film or sports rights, and which of these were local and international.
In effect South Africans are being told that the SABC is being kept profitable with no change to anything but a further erosion of local, quality, entertaining and educational programming that speaks to them.
So can we really say the SABC has turned itself around where it matters most, if at all? Can we say we’re getting value for money where the broadcaster is financed with public funds and TV Licenses? Can we really say that this is an SABC that work