The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The SABC’s interim board is said to be seriously considering scrapping the 90% local content rule as it struggles to boost revenue in the face of acute financial problems.

The 90% rule, which was implemented unilaterally in 2016 by former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is reported to have led to declines in audience numbers and in advertising. Insiders said it was high on the list of issues for the new interim board.

The policy was never discussed by the previous board and was flagged by the ad hoc parliamentary committee that investigated the crisis at the SABC. The committee recommended that the interim board evaluate the financial and legal implications of unilateral changes to policy and that those responsible should be held accountable for changes that caused financial loss.

A decision by the interim board to scrap the policy could put the public broadcaster on a collision course with local artists, who see the move as a major boost for local music.

The SABC had to increase spending on expensive local content to make the policy work, a situation many believe contributed to its financial woes. The public broadcaster is fast running out of cash and is in urgent need of yet another government bailout.

However, SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago played down the commercial effect of the public broadcaster’s controversial 90% local content rule.

He said on Monday that there was no evidence on the table to prove that the policy had directly led to a decline in advertising revenue.

He denied that the SABC board had already taken a decision to do away with the policy.

"The board has not discussed that matter [scrapping the 90% policy].... It has just started working," said Kganyago.

He said interim board members were inducted only last week "and they have not had time to engage … they have just said that if there are wrong policies or directives, they will engage those policies".

He said the board’s priority was to tackle the financial problems at the SABC.

Krish Naidoo, an SABC interim board member, reportedly said last week the board was due to meet to discuss overturning the 90% rule and the system would probably revert to the previous 60% local content quota if the board agreed.

"It impacted on the entire revenue stream. Both listeners and advertising dropped, likely as a consequence of [the policy]," Naidoo said.

Motsoeneng, who is suspended from the public broadcaster pending the conclusion of a fresh disciplinary hearing, said on Monday that he could not comment on speculation that the policy he championed would be scrapped. "All I can say is that 90% is for the people and is here to stay," he said.

He would hold a media briefing on Wednesday to discuss "wide-ranging" issues. "I will be able to discuss these issues after that press conference," he said.

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said the board should reassess the 90% policy, which was adopted with no research or cost analysis.

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