By Anna Chibamu
THE Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s (ZBC) operations have been affected by government’s failure to fund its operations, political interference, damaged reputation and low listeners’ licence fees.
This was expressed Friday by ZBC board chairperson Josiah Tayi, who said this had forced the media entity with over 1 000 employees to function with only four vehicles.
The national broadcaster should be operating as a commercial entity and not rely on government, but the State owes it an undisclosed amount on money in unpaid advertisements and other services.
Tayi said interference from politicians and influential people was affecting ZBC’s operations.
The ZBC boss and other board members as well as senior management were giving oral evidence to the Information, Media and Broadcasting Service Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Friday.
“Licence fees contribute only five percent and have not been reviewed for a long, long time like what happens with the tollgates at ZINARA (Zimbabwe National Road Administration) and the fuel sector. The fees were last reviewed in 2009,” he told the MPs.
He also said the corporation was owed an unspecified amount by the government in unpaid levies.
“We are liberalising the economy and nothing should come for free. We have limited financial support from the government but 60% of our operations is imported equipment,” Tayi told the committee.
He said this was affecting the struggling corporation, which runs the only TV station in the country and several radio stations to pay its workforce of over 1 000 workers their monthly salaries on time.
“Licensing, which is supposed to be a gatekeeper and buffer barely touches on the current capital demands of these operations. Government departments and ministries are not paying for these adverts and this is very unfortunate and premised on the wrong perception that broadcasting services were free confusing the meaning of national mandate,” Tayi added.
He bemoaned that ZBC could not borrow from international lenders as Zimbabwe was viewed as country risk while its corporate brand was damaged and ZBC had under capitalised funding constraints.
“We are aware of the damaged brand and we are working on re-branding ZBC and this includes the personnel. We are employing robust moves to plug revenue leaks and complete the turnaround of ZBC to become a full media entity, source foreign currency to buy content and replace obsolete equipment.”