National and provincial government departments owe the SABC more than
R300-million in advertising fees. The money is owed for airtime sales,
outdoor broadcast ventures and advertising on both television and radio, writes Buddy Naidu in Business Times.

The government — sole shareholder in the public broadcaster — could ease the cash flow crisis crippling the SABC by simply paying up.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said he was not in a position to confirm the arrears figure but said the broadcaster was “engaging with both the department of communications (as the shareholder) and individual departments”.

In March, SABC acting chief executive Gab Mampone announced pre-tax losses of R784-million, at least R400-million of which was due to the loss of advertising revenue from multinational companies.

It is believed that losses at the SABC have now topped R1-billion.

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

Despite various investigations into the management and financial crises that have raged at the SABC in the past two years, it only emerged now that the government is one of its biggest debtors.

The admission was made by chairman of the interim board Irene Charnley when she and her fellow board members addressed parliament’s communications portfolio committee for the first time last week.

Responding to questions from committee members, Charnley said the arrears were due to administrative and bureaucratic issues rather than an unwillingness to pay.

She promised to report back to the committee should certain departments continue to refuse to pay up.

She added that it was not in the SABC’s interests to “name and shame” the relevant departments.

Said Kganyago: “One of the things we are doing is collecting money from people that owe us… we are engaging with government and also others that owe us money.”

Advertising money, he said, accounts for 80% of total revenue. “Our currency is airtime.”

When announcing the dire financial crisis in March, Mampone admitted “issues over liquidity”.

He said the broadcaster had expected growth of 20% and was not prepared for such a harsh credit crunch, which resulted in growth reaching only 2%.

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