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SABC spends R725 000 on Zuma "documentary"

Lindiwe Mazibuko, DA National Spokesperson
12 May 2010

A reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question has revealed that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) spent R 725 000 on acquiring the rights to the film, Ungumuntu Ngabantu: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, an inaccurate "documentary" account of the life of President Zuma. The DA will be adding the amount to its Wasteful Expenditure Monitor, which now stands at just under R1.1 billion.
 
The parliamentary reply follows below; a breakdown of the costs involved is as follows:
 

  • R400,000 spent on the five year licence and exploitation rights
  • R310,000 spent on advertising
  • R25,000 spent on producing the promo for advertising

In the reply, the Minister of Communications describes the documentary on President Zuma as 'factually correct'. However, on viewing the DVD it becomes clear that significant portions of Mr Zuma's life have been omitted from this account. In fact, remarkably, the documentary does not even deal with the corruption charges which were brought against Mr Zuma in 2007. The programme can rightly be described as propaganda since its purpose is clearly to promote the President, regardless of the facts, rather than to inform the public as to his history.
 
It is always a warning sign when any governing party begins to disseminate propaganda, because it means that when the facts which define the country's history are not to its liking, they are edited, or more suitable ones are created in their place. It is more alarming still is when public institutions - in particular, the public broadcaster - undertake such initiatives on the political party's behalf, because it means that their independence is compromised and their ability to serve the public interest, undermined.
 
Even under new management, the SABC appears to continue to perpetuate the belief that it is the mouthpiece of the ANC, a situation similar to the relationship that that SABC had with the state under Apartheid. We should not forget that just over a year ago, when then-ANC Spokesperson Jessie Duarte summoned SABC news editors to Luthuli House to account for their output, it was to castigate them for their alleged "portrayal" of the newly-elected ANC President, with which the post-Polokwane ANC elite was deeply dissatisfied. The acquisition of five year airing rights to a documentary that paints Jacob Zuma in a deliberately distorted light does nothing to redeem the public broadcaster's reputation in this regard.
 
The new SABC board needs to act to reassure the public that the public broadcaster is indeed independent of political control as is required by the Constitution.
 
PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
WRITTEN REPLY
 
QUESTION NO: 1262
DATE OF PUBLICATION:  23 April 2010
QUESTION PAPER NO: 11
DATE OF REPLY:
10 May 2010
 
               Ms L D Mazibuko (DA) asked the Minister of Communications:
(1)        What amount was (a) budgeted and (b) actually spent on the (i) production and (ii) broadcasting of the documentary Ungumuntu Ngabantu: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma;
(2)        whether any advertisements were placed or broadcast in or on (a) print media, (b) radio and (c) television to advertise this documentary; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, (i) where were these advertisements placed or broadcast, (ii) how many advertisements were placed or broadcast and (iii) what is the breakdown of the total advertisement cost;
(3)        whether any advertisements were placed for the production of this
documentary; if not, (a) on what basis was the production company chosen to produce the documentary and (b) what (i) is the name and (ii) are the details of the company that produced the documentary; if so, (aa) what are the details of the company that was awarded the tender and (bb) on what basis was the decision to award the tender to this company taken?     
NW1421E
REPLY

(1)    (a)  R1,875m was budgeted for programming on the overall inauguration month  across all platforms.  (b)   (i)   R400 000 was spent on the license (5 years, unlimited broadcasts across all channels) and exploitation rights. (Specifically DVD sales). 
(ii) R310 000 is the minimum average value utilized in allowing the promo's to play out in advertising time .  The Revenue generated R104 430.
(2)    (a) (NO), (b) YES - Public Broadcast Service Radio, and (c) YES - promos were done in 30 second slots   ; (i) on Television and Radio, (ii) Thursday - three 30 second promos; Friday - 6 to 10 times 30 second promos and Saturday in Weekend live - approximately 3 times and (iii) the cost of the Promo is R15 000 plus the placement costs of R310000 in airtime value used totaling R325 000.
(3)        No adverts were placed,    (a)   The company came through SABC's unsolicited section as a proposed license.  The SABC did not make or pay to have the films made.  They were paid for and produced by the independent producers, we acquired the license to broadcast them.  The films were chosen based on the original inauguration business planning as acquiring a completed programme is more cost effective than producing from scratch.   The company also had intimate interviews with the incoming President which gave the films depth.  SABC struggled to get interview time and behind the scenes access thus the films quality was much better than if we had to produce the films ourselves. 
(b)  (i)  and (ii)  Vilakazi Development Strategies are the owners of the films with the principal owner being Professor Vilakazi, a respected academic.  Thus ensured that the contents of the films were factually correct.
(aa) and (bb) As mentioned above, the company was Vilakazi Development Strategies and they produced these independent films and submitted it to SABC through the unsolicited procurement system.  SABC, as part of its preparation for the inauguration week, decided to acquire these 'completed' films as they were of interest to the viewers, factually correct and came at a good license price. Also SABC retained exploitation ownership for 5 years which would allow it to sell DVDs and ensure a sustainable revenue stream. The license also allowed SABC unlimited broadcast, which in normal license acquisitions is 3 broadcasts over 3 years.  This means a longer period to amortize costs and ensure ROI on revenue.