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Rights to Rugby World Cup matches 'not commercially viable' for SABC

The public broadcaster's leadership was addressing Parliament's communications committee on Tuesday on the steps being taken to fix it.

Madoda Mxakwe, SABC group chief executive officer. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board has told Parliament that its decision not to buy the rights to broadcast the Rugby World Cup was because it was simply not commercially viable.

The public broadcaster's leadership presented its turnaround strategy and answered questions at the communications portfolio committee sitting on Tuesday.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off this weekend, with South Africa coming up against the All Blacks on Saturday.

Group chief executive Madoda Mxakwe said one of the corporation's biggest cost drivers was sports rights.

“We’re certainly committed to our mandate of ensuring that we broadcast sports of national interest. However, it’s been extremely expensive and that has affected our profit. In the past three years, we’ve lost about R3.8 billion and if we were to continue with this trajectory in the next three years, we would have made another R6.8 billion. It’s just not sustainable for the SABC.”

He said previous poor business deals informed the decision not to buy Rugby World Cup broadcast rights.

“About six years ago, there was a contract that was signed in terms of acquiring sports rights and football. That contract was R280 million per year over five years and the revenue generated by the SABC was less than R40 million. That is a commercially wrong deal. What we’ve been doing since the board instructed us to say, we will not sign any deal that is not commercially viable at the SABC.”

INTIMIDATION

The SABC board said despite the threats against their lives and pushback from some employees, they were determined to turn the corporation around.

Board chair Bongumusa Makhathini said they needed the support of Parliament because their lives were in danger.

Makhathini referred to a public campaign to attack SABC executives implementing the turnaround strategy.

“When you see negative headlines, people are fighting back and in them fighting back, they are attacking the reputation of the very same executives that we have appointed. The same board that you, honourary members, appointed and trusted with the renewal and rehabilitation. But I do want to assure you, honourable members and South Africans, that there is no amount of intimidation or pushback that will stop us from doing what [is required].”

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