TV programmes, radio shows, and a number of live broadcasts on the SABC network are braced for disruption on Friday 20 November. Striking workers have vowed to ‘down tools’ from 13:00 onwards, as the bitter row over a mass retrenchments rollout rumbles on. The situation is likely to create a ‘programming blackout’.
When does the SABC blackout start on Friday?
Earlier this week, we saw veterans of the SABC newsroom take their grievances to management, and the confrontation was shown live on the state broadcaster’s rolling news channel. That stand-off, which initially produced a suspension of lay-offs, may only be a short-lived victory though: Retrenchments have only been suspended for a seven-day period.
Unions representing workers at the SABC say the only way the board can stop the expected blackout and strike is to terminate the retrenchment process, withdraw all letters issued so far and come back to the negotiating table. #sabcnews pic.twitter.com/iXVb9tnTrH
— Radio 2000 (@Radio2000ZA) November 20, 2020
Some SABC programmes ‘to go off-air’
For the workers and their unions, this offer simply isn’t good enough. They are now primed to walk out of their respective studios in protest later today, and hundreds of staff members are set to take a stand. Clyde Mervin, who is the President of the Communication Workers Union, confirmed that the strike would have a huge impact on SABC’s programming:
“They want to suspend the process of retrenchments for seven days but we want them to withdraw the whole process. The strike starts at 13:00 on Friday. Obviously, it’ll affect programming. All staff will down tools. It’s going to be a big show.“
Mmusi Maimane wants a state-backed bailout
At least 400 jobs are on the line under this retrenchment process. SABC is currently hemorrhaging hundreds of millions in lost revenue, and there’s going to be a very human cost as a result of balancing the books. Meanwhile, One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has thrown his support behind the striking workers and called for the network to receive a bailout.
“If we can bail out SAA we can and in fact, we must bail out the SABC. We need more attention and resources channeled to content creation once again at the SABC. The broadcasting giant of Africa must be rejuvenated. There must be zero retrenchments. Properly managed the SABC can produce great content and generate revenue.”
“What I have observed is that rands are not flowing to young content creators and talented professionals at the SABC. This needs to change, the SABC was the engine of content creation in Africa. That’s a legacy that must be reclaimed and protected. We must not write off the state broadcaster.”