The SABC has recorded nearly R500 million in net losses in six months into the 2023/24 financial year, Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Philly Mapulane said on Tuesday.
He revealed this during a briefing by the board and management to the communications and digital technologies portfolio committee on the public broadcasters’ corporate plan.
The tabling of the plan in Parliament was delayed after the board was given an opportunity to develop it following the delay in the board’s appointment in April.
Mapulane said the department had information on the latest financial performance of the SABC, and officials were analysing the public broadcaster’s third quarter financial report.
“Already there is information we received that there is a net loss of about R464m a year to date. While the corporate plan is projecting a surplus in terms of revenue, information at our disposal indicates there is a net loss of just below R500m,” he said.
Mapulane said that the SABC should revise the targets set in the corporate plan, saying the available evidence was not consistent with the figures presented.
Board chairperson Khathutshelo Ramukumba noted that the corporate plan was adopted around April.
“There are certain commitments that will not reflect the current status of affairs.
“Our view is the approach is not to make changes to this plan we adopted but report on the status quo that may have changed,” he said, adding that they would present quarterly reports.
In terms of its corporate plan, the SABC hopes to secure a profit of R56.6 million and targeted R6.5 billion in revenue expenditure, with 38% growth.
CFO Yolande van Biljon said their revenue had consistently dropped, mainly due to declining audience ratings.
Van Biljon noted that the going concern status of SABC remained a challenge.
“If our revenue growth does not live up to expectations, our going concern is under significant pressure. Our revenue struggles to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels.”
Van Biljon told the MPs that the SABC’s cost of delivering the unfunded mandate would amount to as much R7.4 billion over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), and that the cost of content alone ranged between R700m to R800m a year.
Mapulane said the SABC had implemented a turnaround strategy over the past three years, but still posted losses.
“The SABC will develop a strategy to improve the financial position, which as we know, despite huge capital injections and a turnaround plan implemented over the years, the SABC has not managed to turn around “We are looking forward to receiving that strategy to be submitted by 30 November,” he said.
Mapulane also said the ministry was concerned with the SABC’s escalating debt for signal distribution costs owed to Sentech.
“As at the end of September the debt was R745m. This is a significant figure. If this is allowed to continue like this, it is going to impact sustainability.”
He added that the SABC had lodged a dispute over Sentech’s tariffs but the Competition Commission declined to consider it.
“We look forward to the two boards resolving this issue in an amicable way.
We would like to appeal to the SABC board and management to service this debt,” he said.
“Even if it were to be determined the tariff is high, the SABC will still be liable to pay the debt. This issue needs to be attended to as a matter of urgency,” Mapulane said.
The deputy minister also revealed that the SABC had submitted a request to the National Treasury for an additional R1.5 billion allocation, but the request was not considered in the 2023 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.
“We did not get what we requested from the Treasury because of the dire situation the Finance Minister painted in the finances,” he said.
“We hope probably in the next budget the Treasury will respond positively.”