Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Government should restore grants that used to be extended to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) if the entity is to effectively discharge its public broadcaster mandate, legislators heard yesterday.
ZBC chairperson Dr Josaya Tai said the trend in the region and beyond was that public broadcasters were funded by the fiscus, in addition to levying licences.
Dr Tai said this yesterday while giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services chaired by Binga North MP, Prince Sibanda (MDC-Alliance.)
He said while ZBC was commercialised, there were no support funding mechanisms to enable it to be viable.
“ZBC has to operate as a commercially viable entity,” said Dr Tai. “Although ZBC remained a public broadcaster, the commercialisation effect lost its grant component from the funding scheme.”
Dr Tai said most public broadcasters in the region such as South Africa, Namibia and in First World countries like Britain, were being funded by the Government.
“A snap survey in the region and beyond showed that public broadcasters receive handsome Government grants and collect licensing fees in their funding model,” he said.
‘These entities exclusively have a commercial permissible thrust to further broaden their viability and stability positions. ZBC, like all those similar national public broadcasters, carries a national mandate which includes radio accessibility, television and lately online radio broadcasting, webcasting as channels for public information dissemination and aggregation by the Government to fulfil the constitutional rights of access to information by the citizenry.
“A case in point is the slot occupied and utilised by the Government diaries on the various available ZBC platforms and channels, with the national mandate constituting 80 percent of the corporation’s operational costs that have continued to increase under the current challenging economic conditions.”
Dr Tai said ZBC was fulfilling Government diaries for free, despite that it costs them money to do so.
“The fact that all these diaries were not being paid for by the relevant Government departments and ministries was very unfortunate and premised on the wrong perception that these services were free and confusing the meaning of national mandate,” he said.
“It was such attitude and approach that created a downward spiral of ever decreasing revenue left available for the very production necessary to meet its national mandate quota in the first place.”