SABC's debt close to R700m

The SABC is currently close to R700m in debt.

The public broadcaster owes its creditors R694m, with further accruals of R475m expected, SABC chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon told the Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday.

Furthermore, by the end of this month, the SABC will have only R26m in its bank account, after salaries and about 25% of the outstanding debt will be paid.

"Our financial situation is very dire," said SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini.

Newly appointed SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe said the SABC had "serious liquidity challenges".

He said a financially burdened public broadcaster not only affects its employees, but also the local production industry.

He said they know they have a responsibility to educate South African voters ahead of next year's election, but at the moment that is not possible. They have been engaging Treasury to ensure they get funding.

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SABC COO Chris Maroleng said they have a "significant funding gap" to obtain broadcasting rights for sport events, while the SABC, as public broadcaster, has a regulatory mandate to broadcast sporting events deemed to be in the national interest according to the regulations set up by Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

He said the SABC's failure to broadcast these events will lead to reputational damage, an outcry from the public and it might lead to a decline in advertising revenue and a decline in TV licence payments as a backlash. Furthermore, if they don't comply with the regulations, they could be fined up to R500 000.

He said the SABC is not protected by the 2010 sports broadcasting regulations.

The regulations prescribe sporting events which must be broadcast by the SABC in the national interest.

SABC board member Michael Markovitz said they are not asking for money for sports rights, they want the regulations to be amended so that it costs the SABC less.

He said the regulations are eight years old. The idea was to make sport more accessible for South Africans. But the sports rights association knows that the SABC has to obtain the rights, therefore they can push up the price.

The committee supported the idea of looking into the regulations and committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana said they will engage ICASA about sporting rights.

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Despite the grim financial picture that was painted, the committee was also satisfied that the SABC is on the right track. They will soon present their turnaround strategy to the committee.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme said she is "cautiously optimistic".

"It seems like the SABC has a handle on the issues," she said. "Please do not disappoint us when you present your turnaround plan."

Maxegwana said: "You are getting there. Many things you do sits comfortably with the committee."