SABC needs funds

Buddy Naidu

Buddy Naidu

The SABC expects to make pre-tax losses of almost R800million this year and have gone cap-in-hand to treasury for help.

Acting chief executive Gab Mampone said yesterday the broadcaster was now "monitoring and stopping unnecessary spending" as part of a wide-ranging turnaround strategy.

He said the fact that the broadcaster was in the red and surviving on overdraft was due to "external factors", mainly the global economic climate.

At least R400million of the R784million in losses were down to lost advertising revenue by multinational companies alone, said Mampone.

Expenses for the 2009 financial year were R5.5billion, up R1.2billion from the previous year.

The Times reported on Wednesday that the broadcaster was facing a deficit of about R700million which SABC spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago, repeatedly denied.

Mampone, his managers and several SABC members including chairman Kanyi Mkonza put on a united front as they tried to explain the financial crisis crippling the parastatal.

Earlier they spoke to SABC staff as rumours swirled through the corridors of Auckland Park about retrenchments and how pension fund money was being used to pay salaries.

Mampone and Mkonza vehemently denied both claims.

Board member Bheki Khumalo said while there was no need to panic, it was now "business unusual at the SABC".

Mampone admitted to having "issues over liquidity".

He said the broadcaster had anticipated a 20percent growth but was not prepared for a such a harsh credit crunch that resulted in growth figures reaching only two percent.

He said his team met with treasury officials on Wednesday to, among other things, "seek a guarantee" as they were in the process of renegotiating their overdraft facility after it had been "withdrawn".

His chief financial officer, Robin Nicholson, later chirped that the "banks still have some confidence in the SABC even if others don't".

Mampone and Mkonza announced several cost-cutting measures including:

l The freezing of all posts unless "absolutely necessary";

l The closure of some news bureaus worldwide that were reputed to have cost between R3million and R5million to set up;

l The clamping down or "reduction" of foreign trips by all staff; and,

l A review and reduction of the use of consultants and freelance contractors.

Mampone said they would also be lobbying the ministry of communications to introduce "marginal" TV license increases each year. The last two increases, he said, were in 1998 and 2004.

He said millions had already been spent on infrastructure.

These included the digitalisation of all archive material and broadcasting infrastructure, the purchase of four outside broadcast vans for the 2010 World Cup as well as the roll-out of low powered transmitters.

Meanwhile lawyer Barry Aaron yesterday withdrew his application in the Johannesburg High Court to liquidate the broadcaster after it owed him R450000 in legal fees.