Distress signal: The SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Distress signal: The SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

SABC chief operating officer Chris Maroleng says the recent changes at SAFM are meant to stem losses in excess of R30m at the talk-radio station.

The SABC has also failed to raise funding from institutions, while it awaits the outcome of its appeal to Treasury for a R3bn guarantee. The broadcaster, however, insists its cash flow position has improved after setting out to pursue aggressive cost containment.

Maroleng was part of an SABC delegation, which included acting CEO Nomsa Philiso, acting chief financial officer Thabile Dlamini and board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini, that briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications about the public broadcaster’s performance plans.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme said the changes at SAFM had been poorly handled, judging by the number of complaints received from the public.

One of the sticking points was how longtime breakfast host Sakina Kamwendo’s final show ended.

The SABC is still reeling from the Kamwendo incident and is also grappling with a brewing fake doctoral qualification scandal involving board member Kgalema Mohuba, who is also the spokesman for the University of Limpopo.

Maroleng told MPs SAFM needed to more than double its listenership to 600,000 by 2020 to at least break even.

Makhathini said the broadcaster would wait for the University of Limpopo to complete its investigation into Mohuba before acting.

Allegations emerged recently that Mohuba hired two people to write his doctoral thesis.

Philiso said the SABC expected to return to profitability in the 2019-20 financial year. It posted a R977m loss after tax in 2016-17.

The broadcaster aimed to reduce losses before interest and tax to R287m in 2018-19. The SABC was targeting a R156m net profit in 2019-20 and R334m in the financial year after, Philiso said. "Taking into account the SABC’s … cash crisis … emphasis will have to be placed on both revenue generation and cost-containment strategies with long-term results," she said.

The bulk of the SABC’s revenue (85%) is derived from advertising, sponsorships and other commercial partnerships.

The SABC said funding of its public mandate through grants had not increased proportionately with additional requirements to broadcast more events of national importance, including sports, elections and other public-mandate programming in all official languages.

On the going concern status flagged by the auditor-general, the SABC said it had not been able to raise funding with financing institutions.

Dlamini said the public broadcaster was still waiting to hear from Treasury about the government guarantee request, which was submitted in the middle of 2017.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za