Govt bleeding us, says ZBC

By Staff reporter | 02 Mar 2020 at 12:41hrs
Dr Tayi
STATE broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) yesterday told Parliament that government's numerous programmes were draining its coffers, resulting in the current financial crisis.

ZBC board chairperson Josiah Tayi poured his heart out when his board appeared before the Prince Dubeko Sibanda-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media to give oral evidence on the state of affairs at the public broadcaster.

Tayi told Parliament that licence fees charged by ZBC could not sustain its operations, resulting in the institution failing to appropriately remunerate its staff, with some workers earning as low as $300 per month.

"Hybrid operations created confused funding models and the corporate lost its government grant from funding scheme and licensing was presumed to be enough to fund the broadcaster," he said.

"Licensing is meant to be a gatekeeper and buffer on the budget, but demands of diaries by government departments and ministries are perceived wrongly that the services were free and such an approach created a downward spiral on ZBC with a disastrous end.

"The national mandate constitutes 80% of ZBC costs and 5% of funding to ZBC is licence costs, of which payment of licences has dwindled and yet they are supposed to be part of the funding model.

Another problem with licensing is that it has not been reviewed for a long time. It is sad that broadcasting licences are not reviewed regularly just like what happens with tollgates and other service providers."

The ZBC board chairman said despite an increase in operational costs, there was little support from the fiscus and yet 60% of costs they incurred were of imports of broadcasting components.

Tayi said some of the major challenges experienced by the ZBC included electricity outages, non-payment by government departments, non-taking over of their legacy debt by government, high indebtedness on medical aid and employee pensions and acute foreign currency shortages and non-acquittals of foreign currency purchases of equipment.

The committee expressed concern over political and commercial interference at ZBC.

ZBC head of programmes Gilbert Nyambabvu said inadequate equipment and poor salaries exposed staff to manipulation and bribery.

"If people are not paid well, they are vulnerable to cheque book journalism. Do we also have regulations to ensure editorial independence?" Nyambabvu asked.

But Sibanda could have none of his explanations, saying lack of equipment was no excuse for being biased.



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