By Chloe Howcroft

There are growing concerns about the future of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in light of its current, debilitating financial situation whereby financial mismanagements have resulted in crippling amounts of debt.

The state-owned public broadcaster has accumulated outstanding payments, now owing close to 1.8 billion Rand ($120 million) to content and service providers such as SenTech (a distributor to the South African broadcasting sector), for which it owes approximately 337 million Rand and Supersport (a South African based channel for sports coverage), which is owed 223 million Rand. They are also in debt to the City of Johannesburg municipality by over 10 million Rand.

Moreover, although SABC opted to pay employee salaries in May, there are fears that they may not be able to pay salaries at the end of this month. This occurs after plans for cutting costs were withdrawn at the start of this year whereby 981 permanent staff and 1200 freelancers could have potentially lost their jobs.

SABC received a multibillion-rand bailout from the government in the 2018/19 financial year, which was allegedly used to fund creditors. The public broadcaster’s executives have since submitted another funding application requesting 3.2 billion Rand ($216 million) in order to stay afloat for the next few months. However, at the time of writing, the public broadcaster has still not received this financial assistance.

Talks of a ‘Day Zero’ had already begun back in March.

With the future of South Africa’s national broadcaster hanging in the fate of the approval of a funding support application, SABC’s financial instability may therefore result in an inevitable broadcasting blackout due to an inability to maintain their infrastructure, having also failed to stay on top of utility bills. Talks of a ‘Day Zero’ had already begun back in March.

A ceasing of operations would mean a lack of informative and entertaining content for its national audience and, ultimately, losing South Africa’s public broadcaster as we know it. This crisis unfolds in a climate where concerns over the sustainability and survival of public media broadcasters around the world continue to manifest.

You can watch an interview with SABC’s Chief Financial Officer, Yolande van Biljon, about the current crisis here:

Header Image: South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) Television Park in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Credit: THEGIFT777/iStock