Will debts force SABC off air?

Staff Writer | Jun 19, 2019
The national broadcaster is counting on its application for R3.2 billion from the government to pay salaries and stay on air.

SABC’s ‘Day Zero’ could ‘happen tomorrow’ if any of the broadcaster’s major debtors were unable ‘to support us’, according to the service’s chief financial officer Yolandi van Biljon.

She was speaking in a television interview after reports of the SABC’s facing a possible blackout, which would stop it from broadcasting.

Van Biljon said that the company owed more than R1 billion. The situation was ‘extremely uncertain’. Paying salaries remained the main priority. 

According to Van Biljon, the SABC’s debts include multi-million rand sums due to two companies, Supersport, which is owed R317 million, and Sentech – which provides distribution networks – R208 million.

If these two companies called in these debts, the broadcaster would not even be able to pay its employees’ salaries, said Van Biljon. Management was doing everything it could to protect the payroll. 

The SABC is not the only state-owned company desperately needing financial rescue. The national airline, South African Airways, is also in a debt crisis, and the power utility, Eskom, is in debt to the tune of R400 billion.

The present financial crisis is not the SABC’s first, but should a broadcasting blackout occur, it will deprive the millions of radio listeners and television viewers who rely on the public broadcaster of their main source of news and information.

 

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