THE denial by Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) of their alleged biased coverage while giving oral evidence in Parliament buttresses calls for its transformation, a media watchdog has said.
On May 23, ZBC denied before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services that its coverage is biased with its chief executive officer Patrick Mavhura, and head of news and current Affairs Gilbert Nyambabvu, saying it was just a perception that they are biased. Mavhura added that it was due to such perceptions that some political parties refrained from inviting ZBC to their events because they believed they would not be given fair coverage.
Committee chairperson Prince Dubeko Sibanda had asked the two to explain what ZBC has done to deal with the perception that the State broadcaster was biased after several reports by election observer missions adjudged it politically biased in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF.
Findings on ZBC's biased coverage in favour of Zanu-PF during the elections were made by the African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM), European Union Observer Mission, National Democratic Institute, and Commonwealth Observer, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Sadc observer missions, among others.
Misa-Zimbabwe said it is disappointed that ZBC failed to acknowledge these anomalies as an opportunity for them to address the findings and shortcomings identified by observer missions to the 2018 elections.
"This comes at a time when a Cabinet taskforce has been set up to look into the findings and recommendations with the view to implementing them. However, information on the progress in this regard remains scarce. "The issue at hand, which Mavhura and Nyambabvu seem to have missed, is not whether ZBC covers or does not cover opposition party activities, but that when it does, its coverage is biased.
"It is such denials and intransigence that buttress and justify increasing calls for the transformation of ZBC into a truly independent public broadcaster," said the media watchdog. Misa-Zimbabwe urged ZBC to come up with measures that ensure diverse and impartial coverage of different political parties and other dissenting voices, views
ZBC officials also told Parly that by the end of the digitisation programme they would run six additional television channels. Misa-Zimbabwe, however, noted that in its submissions on digitisation, that ZBC did not clearly outline how the broadcaster plans to give space to alternative political voices through the six television channels.
"ZBC is constitutionally mandated to provide fair and balanced coverage to diverse groups in society. "Meanwhile, this means that of the envisaged 24 television channels upon completion of the digitisation process, at least 18 will possibly be licensed to additional players in the broadcasting industry.
"Misa-Zimbabwe hopes that government will therefore not allocate more than six channels to ZBC when it has outlined in its submissions to Parliament that it is not in a position to run six such channels."