ZBC coffers run dry

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), mouthpiece of the Zimbabwean government and Zanu (PF), is battling to pay salaries and to get staff into work.
Most ZBC staffers including the Corporation's Acting General Manager, Robson Mhandu, do not own vehicles and have to depend on the ZBC's depl

eted fleet, which is beset by breakdowns, fuel shortages and financial problems.
The ZBC, which is publicly funded through licence revenue, has been privatised to propagate Zanu (PF) party business. Since 2000, the state broadcaster has been unwilling to give air time to the opposition and other civic society organisations such as the National Constitutional Assembly, a leading civic society organisation that is calling for a new constitution in Zimbabwe.
An investigation by The Zimbabwean revealed that ZBC employees have been paid late for the last three months. Those working for business units not generating profit, such as National FM and Spot FM, are reported to be owed salaries from August.
Research by a coalition of media lobbying bodies, which was leaked to The Zimbabwean, revealed that Zanu (PF) advertisements, costing billions of Zim dollars, had not been paid for since last year.
Sources within ZBC have revealed that salaries were now being paid according to an employee’s loyalty to the party and to Robert Mugabe.
Journalists have shunned the ZBC for its bias towards Zanu (PF) and its failure to practise journalistic principles such as fairness and accuracy.
Committee member Nelson Chamisa, who is also spokesperson of the opposition MDC, said, as an example of bias, ZBC had failed to cover the 160 recent meetings and political rallies held by the party.
Robson Mhandu attributed the lack of alternative voices on ZBC to poor communication which resulted in them failing to receive information on time. He also said the state broadcaster reserved editorial independence to decide which voices and issues could be aired in the “public interest”.
“That is our prerogative as professional broadcasters,” he said.
Asked to explain the criteria ZBC used in determining public interest, Mhandu said the broadcaster was within the guidelines of broadcasting principles.
Critics have called for legislation to guarantee the broadcaster’s independence and to make the ZBC answerable to Parliament, as opposed to the current situation of operating in secrecy.
Mhandu said the broadcaster faced critical problems with the shortage of foreign currency to import necessary equipment and had not received any funding from government since 1995.
“The resource base does not allow us to go to every corner of Zimbabwe. We are not able to give television coverage all the time we are requested to do so. This is not by design but this situation is compelled by the resource base situation,” he said. – Trust Matsilele

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