State-run media fails to impress Parliamentarians

A report on the state-run media by a Zanu-PF dominated Parliament Portfolio Committee contains some damning findings. In this first excerpt from the report, presented to Parliament in May, the committee describes what it found at Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH).

The Committee was not


impressed by what it saw at ZBH where numerous problems emerged from the ‘unbundling’ exercise. The new organization had nine operating companies, each led by a Chief Executive Officer. In the new structure some of the companies, like Power FM and Radio Zimbabwe, successfully adapted to the new environment. Unfortunately, the bulk of the companies, including SPOT FM, National Radio, Zimbabwe Television, Newsnet and On Air Systems, were failing to cope in the new set up.

The new thrust was profit driven but the faltering companies were burdened by social obligations that required that they cover national events that normally resulted in losses to these companies. Some of the problems emanated from inter-parastatal debts that had accrued over the years and were not being settled and others were inherited from the Ministry of Information and Publicity as part of the restructuring exercise. Your Committee observed that ZBH had no resources; material, human and financial, to engage in a project in the form of National Television. The Committee advised ZBH to revise their plans and hence the indefinite shelving of the project.

ZBH has invested heavily in the 5 million Euro Iranian facility that made possible the digitalization of Zimbabwe Television and Newsnet. However, the facility was under-utilized as news was only covered for less than one and half-hours a day.

Problem areas included poor staff welfare, inadequate remuneration that was way below the poverty datum line in most instances, lack of proper worker representations both in decision-making and wage negotiations. At administrative level, the structure was top heavy. The companies lacked capitalization, which resulted in poor programming, resignation of experienced staff and conversely, an influx of novices in most of the companies. The parliamentarians noted that those companies failing to cope should be merged and the issue of salaries must be seriously reviewed in line with other organizations and other countries in the region.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists reported that they had problems with being regulated by an external body. They were advised to set up a body to regulate journalists and the Media and Information Commission said it had no problems with that arrangement.

The Committee held oral hearings and had written submissions from the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ). It also had audience with other prospective media players, in the form of Radio Dialogue- a community radio in Bulawayo who applied unsuccessfully for an operating license. It found that the current Broadcasting Services Amendment Act No. 26 of 2001 was prohibitive and made it almost impossible to license new players. BAZ had made recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Publicity for amendments to be made to the Act.
The only organization licensed to provide transmission infrastructure, Transmedia, had no resources to undertake the erection of transmitters. The Committee recommended that the operating license for Transmedia should be rescinded forthwith as it has no resources to fulfill its mandate as the national signal carrier.

Committee members: L. Mugabe (chairperson), L. Chikomba, G. Chimbaira, S. Machirori,
E. Mdlongwa, T. Mubhawu, J. Moyo, D. .M. Ncube, C. Pote, E. Porusingazi, J. Sikhala, Z. Ziyambi and M. Zwizwai. Senators: E. Jacob, F. R. E. Magadu, J. Moyo, R. Ndlovu, S. Sai


Don’t miss part 2 next week.


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