Monday, 25 May 2009

Govt requested to assist in SABC cash crisis

Afro Leo has stumbled across a damning and accusatory open letter to the Government from the Television Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC) concerning the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). According to Tonight "Producers have complained that the SABC owes them as much as R40 million for work commissioned by the broadcaster. The SABC has acknowledged that it owes producers money, but has disputed the amount claimed." The open letter which can be located here contains allegations which include "enforced price fixing" by the SABC and this complaint concerning IP rights: "The important matter of content creators not owning their rights to intellectual property ... is in contradiction to the spirit of our constitution and prevents our sector from growth...". The letter alleges too that "...broadcast policy and management decisions have been made largely without meaningful industry consultation; this has brought our sector to its knees and cannot be allowed to continue."

Right - testing the SABC

The tone of the letter is desperate and clearly borne of the frustration of members of the coalition not being paid. The letter also contains statements which, if only partially correct, cast a very poor light on the leadership of the SABC. However, the letter loses some credibility because of its desperation. For example, the reference to IP policies being "in contradiction to the spirit of the constitution" suggests that the TVIEC feels that the policy is abhorrent but does not know why it is unlawful. It is quite natural for the SABC to wish to negotiate to own the IP of the content provider, and ownership of some of the IP may even vest in the SABC automatically for certain commissioned works. On this particular issue, one feels that the TVIEC should find a way to use their collective strength (ultimately the SABC needs content) to negotiate a better position for themselves. Perhaps the TVIEC letter is a step in that direction? That said, the government, which itself recently fought over IP rights to the Springbok emblem, is unlikely to be particularly sensitive to IP rights of content providers.

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