New Generations off air amid contract dispute

Vundla irked by SABC proposal to cut episodes to make way for more adverts

SABC1 soapie Generations: The Legacy has been yanked off air, allegedly over a contractual dispute between the SABC and it producers, while SABC3 drama Isidingo has been canned after 21 years on air.

Sunday World can reveal Generations: The Legacy’s production house, Morula Pictures, which is owned by Mfundi Vundla and the SABC, iced South Africa’s second-biggest soap opera after the producers rejected the public broadcaster’s decision to truncate the show episodes from 24 to 22 minutes as part of austerity measures implemented to cut costs at the embattled public broadcaster.

SABC’s mandarins allegedly tabled the proposal in one of a series of meetings held with the soapie’s producers to negotiate a new contract
after the old one expired in October.

Three independent sources, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals confirmed the SABC’s head honcho proposed to reduce the duration of each e episode by two minutes as part of saving costs and to generate more advertising revenue from the show.

“Traditionally, the duration of commercial break adverts in the show are 30 seconds, so the SABC plans to use these two minutes to slot in at least four more adverts in order to generate more advertising revenue,” the source alleged.

However, the producers sneezed at the proposal, which the SABC hierarchy tried to push as part of the terms and conditions of the new contract, lamenting that it would hit them hard in the pocket.

“Two minutes of 24 minutes might appear a drop in the ocean in the eyes of an ordinary person but if you look at those minutes per month, it’s exactly 40 minutes, so the producers stand to lose a lot of money if they agree to these new terms and conditions.  Remember, they get paid per minute,” said the mole.

The source also alleged the two parties agreed to suspend the fighting of the episodes until they reached an agreement on the matter.

“That is why they issued a statement this week stating they will air the old Generations episodes from next month instead of Generations: The Legacy’s new chapters. It was just a ruse and public relations gimmick to hide the truth of the matter,” said the source.

Another source, an SABC executive committee member, said unlike previous times where Vundla had agreed to start shooting episodes before finalising the
negotiations with the SABC, the soapie boss had refused to budge, saying he was not prepared to move until an agreement was reached.

“That’s why they had to settle on a monthlong break to ensure that they have enough time to negotiate the contract and iron out their differences,”
said the executive. The same executive, who asked not be named for fear of victimisation, said the SABC could not commit to anything as it was currently being
represented by an employee who was acting group executive for television, and there was a delay in decision making as the official still had to consult the CEO.

However, another official also privy to the discussions with Vundla’s company indicated that the SABC conceded that it could not afford to scrap the soapie as it was generating more revenue than any other production on its platforms and therefore  preferred that the two parties reach an amicable solution to their conflicting proposals.

Another informant confirmed the SABC had canned Isidingo. The decision to pull the plug on the show will result in popular actors such as Aubrey Poo, Katlego Danke and Linda Sokhulu becoming unemployed.

The source said the SABC cancelled the soapie because it was failing to attract advertisers because of low ratings. Vundla received and read our questions but
he did not respond. SABC did not respond to questions at the time of going to press.

By Ngwako Malatji and Aubrey Mothombeni

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