More than 30 SABC radio sports bulletin readers are facing a bleak future as the public broadcaster has announced its intention to collapse sports segments and combine them with news bulletins at all of its public radio stations.
The move is part of cost-cutting measures being implemented by the cash-strapped SABC as part of its turnaround plan.
On Tuesday, the SABC sports department sent an email to both its radio station managers and sports readers, informing them of the impending changes.
In the email, which City Press has seen, Gilbert Nyadzhiwa, programme manager for SABC Sport Radio, states: “As from April 1, SABC Sport will no longer provide sport bulletins on all radio stations. As a result, SABC Sport will not renew any contract with the bulletin readers – ie [sic] sport will not continue contracting bulletin readers at SABC Sport as this function will be collapsed together with the news bulletin readers.”
However, Nyadzhiwa gave presenters a glimmer of hope by saying that they might be retained by their stations.
“Stations that would like to retain bulletin presenters on their platforms will have to motivate for such approval through Nada Wotshela, the group executive for SABC Radio, who will agree to carry the cost,” the email reads.
However, the move will not affect sports show presenters and producers.
Metro FM sports bulletin reader Lebo Motsoeli told City Press how shocked she was to hear that sports bulletin readers’ contracts would not be renewed. But, she added, “it is the nature of the business”.
“Anything can happen in the next two weeks,” said a philosophical Motsoeli. “I am just trusting the Lord that they renew my contract.”
An SABC insider told City Press this week that the broadcaster’s sports and news bulletins had been standalone units, meaning that the two departments had separate budgets.
“There has always been confusion between a radio station’s news department and its sports department about who should pay sports bulletin readers. Initially, it was decided that payment should come from the radio station’s news budget. For example, Owen Hannie, who has been a sports reader with Metro FM for many years, is paid from the sports department’s budget – yet it is only Metro FM listeners who benefit from his content,” the insider said.
The insider added that the SABC was also planning to shut down Sport Info Hub, which provides up-to-date bulletins and sport news content.
“All the staff working for this department, including researchers and content producers, are also going to lose their jobs,” he said.
When City Press approached the SABC for comment, acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said the broadcaster was constantly looking at effective ways of optimising its operations. “It must be noted that any changes made on its programming will not affect the delivery and quality of sports bulletins. The SABC is not in a position to discuss internal payment systems with external parties,” she said.