BY VENERANDA LANGA
CHAIRPERSON of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Prince Dubeko Sibanda, says power outages have hit the media and broadcasting industry hard, forcing the sector to rely on expensive back-up generator power, which is threatening their viability.
Sibanda said this yesterday in an interview with NewsDay after the Information Committee completed its tours to different broadcasting stations in the country.
“During the committee’s tour of broadcasting stations, we discovered that load-shedding is seriously affecting the media and broadcasting industry because transmitters need back
up power and that is expensive given that running a generator needs fuel which is expensive and in short supply,” Sibanda said.
“Other challenges being experienced by broadcasters is the narrowing market, where commercial broadcasters depend on advertising for revenue, but the country is in a difficult
environment, where most companies cannot afford to advertise, because they are not producing.”
Sibanda said the committee would engage government to try and make the broadcasting sector attractive to investors as it can entice investment if the array of taxes charged on
broadcasters are removed.
“The players in the broadcasting industry suffer multiple taxation. For a broadcaster to start operating they need to pay a fee to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ),
a fee to Transmedia, they pay to the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), the Zimbabwe Music Rights Authority (Zimura) for royalties, as well as pay the usual taxes to the Zimbabwe
Revenue Authority (Zimra),” he said.
The Information Portfolio Committee chairperson said another hurdle faced by broadcasting companies was that equipment, such as transmitters, is very expensive.
“Broadcasting equipment is a huge expense and if we want to activate sections 61 and 63 of the Constitution, which speak to freedom of expression and access to information, then
government should invest in broadcasting infrastructure. They should make the players pay for those services at a reasonable rate,” Sibanda said.
On content issues, he said the committee was not happy with biased reporting of news.
“We established that even with private commercial players, the news coverage was very biased, and we said they must not be biased, be it in political or commercial news. They
must try to put balance even in talk shows. It is the same with ZBC which has a problem of political bias and is giving good coverage to Zanu PF and bad coverage to the
opposition,” the MP said.
He said the committee hoped that the media-related Bills, that will soon come before Parliament, would create an atmosphere conducive enough for the media to operate.
The Bills include the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, Access of Information Bill and the Broadcasting Services Bill.