THE SABC has joined a long line of state-owned enterprises pleading for
an injection of cash from the state and wants the government to fund
its three- year funding shortfall of R2bn, writes Jocelyn Newmarch in Business Day.

The SABC, in a strategy document that was due to be have been presented by its group CEO Dali Mpofu to Parliament in April, is suggesting that VAT levied on TV licence revenues be scrapped, that TV operators be required to pay licence fees and that the government contribute 50% of the funding required for the planned international news channel.

Without this funding, the annual strategy document says, the broadcaster will not be able to undertake the key strategic initiatives imposed by the government such as the digitalisation of broadcasting, preparation for the 2010 World Cup and the launch of the international news channel.

Most of the SABC’s revenue is derived from advertising and licence fees.

The annual strategy document was distributed by the broadcaster to members of Parliament’s communications committee ahead of a scheduled meeting with the SABC board and management in April. However, the meeting failed to take place after the SABC board suspended Mpofu.

A second meeting, proposed for May 30, was also cancelled. The result was that the document was distributed to parliamentarians but the contents were not discussed.

The SABC was allocated R253m in the communications budget for 2008- 09.

The bulk of the money is earmarked for the digitalisation project, leaving its ambitions for SABC News International somewhat uncertain.

The SABC estimates it will spend R3,8bn on digitising TV signals and preparing for the 2010 World Cup. Digital terrestrial television (DTT) will be broadcast from November and promises to offer improved picture quality.

Very little detail is given about SABC News International, which is mentioned only once in the document. Despite the proposal that the government fund half its costs, it is unclear how much this would be.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.