SABC accused of taking food out of artists’ mouths by not paying royalties

Johannesburg – A music blackout looms for SABC as the SA Music Performance Rights Association (Sampra) takes the public broadcaster to court to compel it to pay needle-time royalties.

Sampra issued a statement on Monday accusing the public broadcaster of “taking food out of artists’ mouths” in recording artists and record companies’ legal battle over the non-payment of needletime royalties.

“Failure by the SABC to pay will inevitably lead to an interdict prohibiting the SABC from playing tracks from

Sampra’s repertoire – which is 99% of all tracks in South Africa,” Sampra said.

These include the music of award-winning artists such as singer-songwriter Donald, rapper Nasty C, DJ and music producer Black Coffee and Jerusalem hitmaker Master KG.

The association accused the public broadcaster of using its members’ intellectual property without compensation for their work.

“By maintaining their stance of not paying for needletime rights as well as negotiating in bad faith, the broadcaster is continuing in its trend of undermining Sampra’s members,” chief executive Pfanani Lishivha said.

“Thousands of Sampra members are directly losing an income from the broadcaster, and this has resulted in dire consequences, such as members’ houses being repossessed, artists being unable to pay for their children’s school fees and not being able to pay for day-to-day expenses such as food, electricity and water,” Lishivha said.

Sampra member and legendary jazz, funk and disco singer Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse added that the artist’s plight is not taken as seriously as other industries.

The SABC’s group executive for corporate affairs and marketing, Gugu Ntuli, said the corporation had set aside an amount due for payment of needletime royalties and has “always” been ready to pay the amount to the relevant collecting societies, namely Sampra and the Independent Music Performance Rights Association (Impra).

“However, the SABC has not paid needletime royalties to either collecting society as the two societies have not agreed on the percentage split of the determined amount,” Ntuli said.

She added that the SABC cannot pay needletime royalties to any collecting society while a dispute on the percentage split between the two societies remains unresolved.

“Most importantly, in order to help bring relief to the beneficiaries of needletime royalties, and as part of the SABC’s commitment to the payment of needletime royalties, the SABC has already made an advance payment of R20 million to both collecting societies,” the corporation said.

Sampra management has hit back and accused the SABC of deception in its allegations that the non-payment was due to the collecting societies not agreeing on a percentage split.

“There is nothing that we as Sampra need to agree with Impra because Impra is not using our members’ money, the SABC is,” they said.

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