The SABC has been sent back to the drawing board on plans for a 24-hour news channel.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday: “This is not the time for vanity projects.” Confirming that the National Treasury had seen a business plan for the channel, Gordhan said the SABC management “must take credible measures to stop wasteful and ill-considered projects and expenditure”.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question from Cope’s Juli Kilian, Gordhan noted that the public broadcaster had not met its target for cutting staff costs, which it agreed to in terms of a R1.4 billion government loan guarantee granted by the Treasury in 2009.
While it had committed to slashing the wage bill by R283 million by next year, setting a target of R1.476bn for the past financial year, the broadcaster’s staff costs had in fact surged to R1.753bn.
Communications Minister Dina Pule has said the projected operational cost of the channel would be R180m a year, rising to R240m in the fifth year. The SABC would also need R75m more for capital expenditure.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago, however, said plans for the launch of the channel were on track. But he could not give a new date for the launch as “logistical issues” needed to be resolved.