Starving Artists Demand R250 Million From SABC

Hungry artists are threatening to go to court to force the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to pay them R250 million in overdue Needletime Rights royalties.

The money has been outstanding for the last five years.

Things are so bad the affected musicians are even considering getting an interdict to stop the public broadcaster from playing their music on air.

Out of pocket artists have been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions that have cut off earnings from live gigs.

By failing to pay for Needletime Rights royalties, the SABC is making life harder for artists who are already in a dire situation, said the South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA).

Needletime Rights royalties are royalties paid to recording artists for the public performance of their commercially released recorded performances and record labels’ for the public performance of their commercially released sound recordings.

On Monday SAMPRA said it was applying to the courts to compel the SABC to pay for the use of their artists’ music. 

“Failure by the SABC to pay will inevitably lead to an interdict prohibiting the SABC from playing tracks from SAMPRAs’ repertoire – which is 99% of all tracks in South Africa,” said SAMPRA CEO, Pfanani Lishivha.

“The SABC is directly endangering recording artists’ livelihoods and effectively ending careers by refusing to pay for Needletime rights.”

Lishivha said the non-payment of royalties has resulted in dire consequences, such as members’ houses being repossessed, artists being unable to pay for their children’s school fees.

“It is more than 16 months since South Africa went into lockdown and the SABC is pouring salt into the wounds of recording artists,” said Lishivha.

SAMPRA, which administers Needletime Rights on behalf of recording artists, represents more than 38 000 performers, and about 6 000 record companies. 

“This amounts to 99% of all tracks performed in South Africa, and a large number of these are played on SABC radio stations,” said Lishivha.

The SABC has not responded publicly, but in the past, the public broadcaster has disputed SAMPRA’s claims.

The SABC is on record as saying royalty payments were made to IMPRA, which represents artists.